I am looking for some help with finding appropriate level advancements
for four “new” schools of magic for Wizards.
The four schools each combine two of the existing traditions,
which themselves have been associated with a particular futhark rune as part of
the setting.
  • The School of Doors includes the rune-magic of ansuz (divination)
    and jera (necromancy, which will also include most of the currently
    evocation-based healing spells).
  • The School of Essence includes the rune-magic of ehwaz (conjuration)
    and gebo(transmutation).
  • The School of Might encompasses the rune-magic of thurisaz
    (evocation) and algiz (abjuration).
  • The School of Mischief includes the rune-magic of dagaz
    (illusion) and mannaz (enchantment).

What I’m looking for would be appropriately encompassing
boosts for each school for 2nd, 6th, 10th, and
14th level.

Thematically, I’m going for the following:
  • The 2nd-level ability should involve finesse or
    control over your runes. The evocation example is being able to selectively
    exempt folks from damage spells, while a conjuration example might be being
    able to take a normally-symmetrical area-effect spell and make it any shape.
  • The 6th-level ability should reflect a deeper
    understanding of the magic at your command. Divination might allow an Arcana
    roll in order to gain awareness of an area of immunity or resistance for a foe.
  • The 10th-level ability I’d like to have a “power”
    theme, such that (for example) damage spells might either get max damage or be
    rolled twice, take the better one. Or add your Spell Ability Modifier to damage
    spells. Both are appropriate.
  • Finally, the 14th-level ability should feel like
    you’ve mastered the magics so well that you can either resist or overcome
    similar magic. So you might be able to punch through a magic shield better, or
    overcome a foe’s resistance to fire with your own fire magic because of your
    knowledge and skill with the runes.

The existing 5e magic classes each have a very distinct feel
to them, so finding a good level ability that embraces (for example) both conjuration
and transmutation, of the School of Essence, has proved to be thematically
difficult for me – which is why I’m looking for help from this resource!
I am certainly willing to have cases such as: “Upon reaching
2nd level, students of the School of Might must choose from the following
two options. Thurisaz (Evocation): you may exempt a number of allies up to your
INT bonus from your area effect spells. Algiz (Abjuration): Spells that are
normally cast with an action can be cast as a bonus action; spells that can be
cast with a bonus action can instead be cast as a reaction, and spells that are
currently cast as a reaction still enable a different
reaction, so long as that reaction isn’t also a spell or magical effect.”
In short, if we’re desperate, “choose between the very
different A and B” is a good way to sever the Gordian knot here.
Thanks in advance for any help or ideas. Particularly clever
suggestions will get you playtest credit when Dragon Heresy is released – that’s
a free copy of the black-and-white PDF right away, possibly more depending on
how well crowdfunding goes.

+GodBeastX , +Anne Hunter , and Wright Johnson joined me for three hours to kick off the “second” playtest group (of three) for Dragon Heresy.

We did not play. Nonetheless, they stuck with me for three hours of chatting, with interruptions by my 6yo, something outside, and tea. We talked setting and character generation from the perspective of three people with varying amounts of knowledge whose first experience with the rules as I’ve written them is getting the draft in their mailbox.

Anne actually followed one of the character generation guidelines I had laid out: the Journey of Discovery.

I’ll quote it selectively:


Sometimes you might not have a great idea of what class you want to play, or the GM might stipulate some of the more old-school methods of character generation. That need not limit your available choices, and some very interesting characters can result.

Assign Ability Scores. Starting with generating ability scores gives the player an idea where the character’s natural talents will lie. This option of picking attributes before anything else will tend to be best used when attributes are generated randomly, rather than assigned.

Choose a Race. The attribute scores rolled don’t necessarily dictate the choice of race. Not all dwarves or dragonborn are stronger than all humans and gnomes, but they are stronger on the average than humans or gnomes. Having rolled attribute scores, decide if your combination of scores and race makes you a particularly unusual member of your race (a very strong member of a very strong race), or if your attribute scores make you stand out in a different way (a very strong member of a race known for being nimble and gregarious). Either way can be interesting!

Background. Choosing he background next allows the player to start with the basic origin of the character, and sets the stage for future development.

Class. With so much background and characterization accomplished, picking a class at this point sets the direction for the character’s adventuring life. You probably have a good feeling for why the character is going out into the world to risk life and limb, as well.

There’s an example worked in through the text as well. But she rolled her dice (and rolled them very well; I’d estimate she was in the 80-90th percentile on 4d6 drop lowest) and wound up with a Barbarian with the Path of Primal Runes as her subclass. Excellent. 

Wright wanted a non-caster, so he picked barbarian. He chose to roll 4d6 drop lowest and then asked me, since he rolled so poorly, if he could take the standard array instead. I said yes – this is a playtest, and I want my playtesters happy with their characters.

Merlin is going with a paladin, with the Oath of Justice, with the call from Skadi, goddess of Winter, hunting, and the justice of righteous anger, of white-hot vengeance in a just cause.

We had a great discussion over whether one of the level boosts I gave at 2nd level was overpowered (it was), and found a really neat way to tone it down:

Channel DivinityWhen you take this oath at 3rd level, you gain the following two Channel Divinity options. 

Lodestone of Justice. By performing a ritual with a piece of lodestone (magnetite, or iron ore) and praying to your god you can mystically mark a target that is thought to be guilty of a crime or other transgression against law or righteousness. You must know both the identity of the wrongdoer, and the supposed nature of the crime for the mark to take hold. Note that the mark taking hold is not evidence or proof of guilt – just that there’s enough information to allow your deity to acknowledge your request.

By placing the mark, the stone becomes attuned to the target, and can be used in further rituals to help you track down your quarry. You may make a DC 15 Charisma check to petition for guidance. If successful, you will gain knowledge roughly as specific as a compass rose (“Northeast” or “south”) that will take you to something that might help track down your target. The GM will provide a piece of information, some examples of which might be the person’s location (if your god is feeling benevolent), but might be a piece of evidence, a physical token of the target’s presence, or a person who has seen or spoken with that creature. Once you find that lead, you may petition again, but until that new information is obtained, you get a busy signal.

Yeah, I’ll be rewriting the busy signal bit. The original version was basically a perfect detection system for both guilt and location for any criminal, partially due to my design intent, but also the wording left it open to great mischief. This may not be perfect, but it’s way better.
Lots of good back and forth on setting – the backgrounds were acknowledged as thematically unified with the implied setting, and they were compelling (yay). The fluff text for character classes brought them to life usefully (yay), and it was clear, for example, that barbarians are such in the terms of “Conan the . . . ” not “not belonging to a great empire or culture.” So good there, too.
They’re making 7th level characters to give the upper ranks a workout. I’ll be getting three sheets from these guys, and still trying to recruit 1-2 more players, so a pretty mighty band will be setting out for a “real” game, which may occur as soon as next week.
The importance of getting playtesters with a fresh perspective to the work cannot be overstated. I have now learned my game is approachable even if you’re not steeped in the rules engine that is the SRD5.0/5.1. Vital tidbit!

Just ran “Group 1” through the second session of the Dragon Heresy playtest campaign. 

After defeating the ogre last turn, they tried to track and find what seemed to be its partner or mate, along with 2-3 (they couldn’t be sure) other, smaller creatures. The party looked, but could not find the appropriate tracks. They did take the ogre’s head as proof, and wondered if they could sell ogre meat. 
No. No they could not.
How about taking the thing’s scrotum as a unique curio pouch. With two goldstone (a type of high-value granite local to the area) spheres in it? Um. Sure. There’s always someone willing to pay for almost anything. 
A final search revealed evidence of the remains of dwarven goods, which again they took as proof that the dwarven cleric that was wondering what had befallen her supply caravan had been waylaid by one or more ogres.
They decided to double back and try and retrace the steps of the large group of humanoids that they had though were bandits that were the likely culprits of the missing merchant caravan that they’d been paid to find. 
They found them, too. The scouting was good enough to not be surprised, but not good enough to surprise them in return. So combat started as the party approached the clearning where about eight bandits – a leader and seven lower-level guys – were warming themselves near a fire.
The first round saw the fighter, who was wearing chain mail and carrying a glaive, rush up to within two squares of the southernmost guard, who was armed with a crossbow. A massive blow killed him instantly, bypassing his defenses and striking right to wounds.
Another bandit was waylaid and hurt when he tried to run past the fighter and got tagged by an opportunity attack at maximum reach (entering the threatened range when you don’t have a weapon with equal reach provokes such an attack; Patrick tells me that’s a 3.5-ism, which I didn’t know, but it makes sense to me in either case).
And wow, Yuri’s empowered Eldritch Blast has a range of 240′. 
I won’t give a blow-by-blow on this one. My bandits rolled simply terribly until the end of the combat, missing and missing and missing even the low target value required to cause a threat.
Highlights of the combat?
  • The glaive with reach was decisive. The fighter was able to keep several foes at bay or engaged by using his opportunity attacks and reach effectively. 
  • Shields were much, much better balanced than last time. No one “took a blow on their shield” like they did in the last game, but the increased hit difficulty made archers seek softer targets, but when the people with shields were shot at, there was an intermediate whittling of defensive resources that mattered. I feel very good about shields, with likely only a few tweaks.
  • The players flanked the bandit captain, but he was wearing chain mail, and mostly soaked the damage. Still, a few blows were given that were important.
  • The bandit captain (3 HD, STR 16) hit the ranger with a natural 20 that also bypassed his defenses, and rolled very well on damage. 2d10+3 with his versatile battleaxe took the ranger to instant KO status in one blow. Ouch.
  • The telling moment was when a strong PC rushed the captain, rolled ridiculously well on both the attack and grapple damage, and instantly restrained the target. This allowed the cleric to order the captain to yield – he failed a morale check and did!
  • Total casualties: three bandits dead, four more injured or unconscious, including the Bandit Captain and one bowman who surrendered when ordered by his captain. The players suffered one unconscious, and one or two very minor wounds, which were healed up afterwards.
  • They recovered a horse and cart from the merchant caravan, and will return either to Midgard or Northpoint with the prisoners. This will serve their reputations well!

+Brian Renninger has already emailed me his report:

I thought a lot of interesting variety happened:

  • The reach weapon opportunity attacks
  • The shield rules influenced who archers chose as targets
  • Grappling was interesting. I rolled well but, if I had not it might well have been dangerous for me so, that added a nice uncertainty to making the choice to try to grapple.
  • The difference between decently armored people versus lightly armored people was apparent.
  • Morale effects resulting in more than just fight to the death
  • Characters took wounds and serious wounds felt serious.
This was the first game I’ve run under the influence of the last two sessions, both of which had some rules and balance issues that seem to be addressed.
I had a long talk afterwards with the player of the ranger that got squished to KO status, +Tim P . He was not complaining, but we chatted about character robustness. I noted that one of my design aesthetics was that first level characters should feel fragile, and I also liked the GURPS death spiral. We agreed mission accomplished on both fronts.
More feedback from players, and some pictures, tomorrow, I hope.

More Feedback

+Vic LaPira writes

  • Fun!
  • I think a three hit dice bandit captain appropriately knocked someone unconscious with a crit, especially where that person is a 1st level character not wearing heavy armor. It seems like we could, and to some extent did, the same thing to them.
  • The grappling mechanic works well.
  • I think the armor’s damage reduction is pretty good, but might need a little bit of tweaking. I think we need to see more combat to know.
  • Shields seem to work fine so far, and influence tactics (presumably like real life). We didn’t get to see any instances, though, where shields took major hits.  Since I don’t think we have anyone using the shield in the group (maybe the cleric?), we are less likely to see it, since PCs will take many more shield hits than NPCs over the course of time. Hopefully one of the other play test groups has shield users.
  • I know it’s on the to do list, but we’ll need to really think about spells–is damage = vigor, straight wounds? Does armor resist or not? Certain spells? I think it *probably* works if you balance them with missile weapons, but we’ll need to see.
  • Reach was effective and good–pole arms should influence the battlefield as they did.
  • I like the injured/morale check mechanic–simple to resolve, has definite benefits. I’m not sure if a die roll for duration (instead of fixed) is too swingy or not, but it will be interesting to find out.

The first one says mission accomplished, even if the rest were slams and critique.

I think he’s about right on the first point, though I wouldn’t play up the 3HD thing. First through fourth level is more or less going to be the same, maybe +1 hit and damage due to a single ability score increase. The increased vigor (think of ’em as hit points, though that’s not exactly right) that you get with more levels can help, though. But the captain rolled a natural 20 (doubling damage dice) and also exceeded the hit threshold of the target, which means that it would have been 2d10+3 to armor and wounds if you couldn’t soak it by taking (effectively) 4d10+6 to vigor. This blow could have been delivered by a 1st level hero easily, and could threaten to one-shot a foe of even significantly more power.

The bonus that the new shield rules give to the Threat DC and Hit DC would have made a difference, though!

I agree on spells, especially cantrips. We will need a translation chart.

I liked the injury and morale check system too, and it very much helped not every battle be “fight to the last man.” I think the DCs of the injury checks need to be revised downward a bit.

From +Peter V. Dell’Orto 

  • Reach Weapons: Okay, I get the “free attack when he closes” thing, but it seems like you can basically a) swing at foes at your own discretion and b) control an area as if you were waiting for a foe to close with you. So reach is very powerful – so much so I felt like it was too powerful. Had our Glaive wielder done a held action or not attacked, it would have felt better to me.
  • Armor: I like it, but there was a moment when I got a bit lost with it. Like, if I pass your Threat DC, I do Vit, and armor doesn’t matter. If I pass your Hit DC, I do wounds, but you might just bounce my attack altogether. It’s almost better to have a lower Hit DC but a high armor number, so you can bounce more attacks. Am I misunderstanding? I don’t have any armor on my guy, so it’s all the same to me so far on my end.
  • Disengage: I need to understand what counts as a disengage. I jump-kicked the ogre last session and then ran away with the rest of my move, but this session I couldn’t run up, attack, and then step away on another guy because he’d get a free shot at me. I wasn’t sure what made the cases different. That’s probably just me, but it did feel like it’s impossible to do drive-by or fly-by attacks on foes even if they aren’t holding their actions because they’ll knife you on the way out.
Reach weapons get that effect as an attack of opportunity, so the key for the bad guys was that they kept approaching Graves one at a time, and getting spitted for it. Two-on-one, with an armored guy taking the opportunity attack, and the second guy darting in as a freebie, was good. But y’all also had a line where doing that would flank the person coming in – I don’t think you planned it that way, but you had areas of “denied squares” because of that setup, and you maintained it well.
Armor is supposed to be what happens when everything is said and done in Dragon Heresy, a barrier between you and harm. There is a rule in there, called “tuck your chin,” named after a line from the Rhapsody (Symphony of Ages) series by Elizabeth Hadydon, where if you want you can just take the blow on the armor without risking vigor loss.
Some of what happened between last game and this one might have been edits. Disengage is triggered when you leave a foe’s threat range and he hasn’t already used his reaction. If he’d already done an opportunity attack, you can come and go as you like. At first level, getting in and out is definitely a challenge – the rogue class has the ability to disengage, hide, or something else as a bonus action at higher levels.
Parting Shot

Overall, I am very, very pleased where things stand. I am finishing up character classes and subclasses, though there’s still lots to do. After that, I simply must make the long slog of editing all of the spells to cohere with the new rules, and the team and I will need to work out the method by which this will happen.

There were a couple of rules tweaks that came out of today’s game, too. One very nice concept on magical weapons and armor. Another on finding a way to bypass high threshold armor, because a guy in heavy armor with a two-handed weapon was a tetch invulnerable. And yet, he was beaten by grappling, which is historically spot-on. So yay rules.

The game is recognizable from its SRD-derived roots. But it does not play like a straight-up version of any of the games it might be compared to.

  • It is not a straight-up SRD5.1 game. But it is approachable as one and a lot of info carries over. Not all, but enough. Going to have to look up particular effects for spells, though, and write ’em down. And a few other things.
  • It is not a straight-up retroclone feel like Swords and Wizardry or to a lesser extent B/X or DCC, where you get a few HP and one blow can kill you – in fact, you almost expect it. Dragon Heresy does not play that way, but one blow can and did kill one NPC, and knocked out one PC. So at least at first level, it can be brutal and fast. Even as high as fourth or fifth level characters can be one-shotted by a lucky blow from a 1st level character (natural 20 and the right other circumstances). So it’s always risky.
  • It is not GURPS, with one-second combat resolution and endless tactical options. But it’s also not “Hit Him with my Mace,” either. The tactical intricacies of the game could clearly be adjusted with optional switches. Hexes or squares, strict facing or abstract/no facing? Roll for armor or straight armor values? Each would have made a difference.
If I can keep my nose to the grindstone, this game will play well.

I’m tired. so this will be a quick summary. I was joined by +Erik Tenkar , +Tim Shorts , and +Rob Conley in the first session for “Group 3,” one of the playtest campaigns I’m running for the Heretical RPG.

The characters were two rangers with chain shirts and longbows, both with one or two short swords, plus a dwarven cleric with the life domain. Light crossbow, scale mail, and a warhammer.

We chatted for a long, long time, and then finished up characters.

They started in one of the main cities as a jumping-off point, and investigated. They found two primary leads. The merchant guild reported that one of their caravans went missing; similarly, a cleric visiting from the majority-dwarven settlement up the coast reported the same deal – a missing caravan, no traces.

At the end of the dwarven plot fork was the same ogre as last time, but this time, two of them, with two ogrillions for backup. I was planning on having one ogre and an ogrillion come at the team from the cave mouth, and then if they investigated, the second pair would try and nab them.

That’s not the fork they took, though. And the other one led to a troop of about a dozen orc bandits. Now, my ambush was laid out for a group of 4-6 characters, and the team only showed up with 3, though two rangers and a cleric might be a reasonable force.

Turned out . . . nope.

They did some investigating and found that the orc band had scaled the protective wall that led between two major population centers, laid an ambush, and nabbed a caravan, taking the goods but not the carts back over the wall with them.

The team tracked them back to their lair, and they did some recon, and lo, there were 12 of them, widely dispersed around a campsite. One very sleepy guard.

They decided to attack, after briefly considering the fact that by locating the fate of the caravan, they’d earned their 130gp reward.

They fired at the guard from surprise, but two terrible rolls and one good one left the orc hurt but not impaired, but he made his morale and constitution checks, and was still up.

Technically, I biffed this one; mooks like the orc automatically fail the constitution checks, and so he should have been injured, and thus impaired, rather than feeling frisky.

His shout roused the rest of the camp. 

The second round had our heroes firing again, but this time, the target was able to bring his shield to bear.

Holy crap, if I wanted to improve the value of shields in the Heretical game, it worked. It may have worked too well. Our orc guard was able to basically hide behind the shield, brushing arrows out of the air with near impunity. His friends and neighbors got closer and closer. The horde approached.

Ultimately, the bowmen were too stymied by the shields to do much good, and there were too many orcs. At least one of our heroes was reduced to no defensive ability, and had to take on a level of exhaustion to top up. Armor is working nicely and making potentially fight-ending blows into threats, but not game-enders. So that’s still good.

We called it with one player surrounded (or nearly so) by orcs, two nearby but withdrawing, and one orc KO’d, and that’s about it.

Lessons learned.

  • +Peter V. Dell’Orto was right. Many weak foes is way, way nastier than one tough foe. 
  • Shields are ridiculously good. +Rob Conley has re-enactor experience, and he was not in disbelief that that was, in fact, exactly right. We did talk about tweaking the stats, though. The benefits given to shields are large, and very much nullify ranged weapon attacks from the front arc.
  • Prior playtesting showed that pelting foes with no shields with ranged weapons was dreadfully and totally effective, though.
  • The shield was good, but not great, in melee. It would probably turn a few blows from a decent fighter, and then shatter. Arrows? Not enough damage to cause that effect. Again, not unrealistic, but was a surprise.
  • We decided to add an “Aim” action option, which will give advantage when attacking. 

Ultimately, I think what happened here was “there are 12 of them, and three of us. Let’s attack!” and that worked out about as well as it should.

In D&D5, the bows would likely have been more telling. Orcs only have AC 13, and my guys were shooting at 1d20+5 or 1d20+6, so would hit about 2/3 of the time for 4-12 points per hit. Should have felled one orc per round. There were still a whole lotta orcs, though. 

I dunno. I set up a very lopsided encounter, and the result was what you would expect. They tried main strength, and were losing badly. They got dogpiled, had no escape route, and probably would have all been killed.

We’re going to reset the board next time, and see if their original plan, which was to pick off one or two of them at a time, from stealth, might work. Also, maybe we can add the fourth (or fifth?) player who was supposed to be present. Having a defender for the archers would make a huge difference. Hell, I dangled the option of hiring a pair of fighters in front of the team early on, but they didn’t bite.

Again – unfair encounter went unfairly. I can’t help the feeling that I might have learned more with fewer bandits. Attacking into 4:1 odds with first level characters is probably not a high-percentage plan.

Again we play the Heretical DnD, and again it works.

This was the beginning of a real campaign, though, not just a playtest. So we did get to take the rules for a spin, but there was a lot of free-wheeling “make stuff up” as well.

Dramatis Personae

Sunshine ( +Peter V. Dell’Orto ) – 1st level human monk (hatchets and martial arts)
Adaemis the Servitor – 1st level cleric to the god of light (mace, shield, and chain mail)
Jack Redwald – 1st level alternate Ranger (longbow, rapier, and leather armor)
Yuri the Soulscarred – 1st level warlock, pact to an archfey
Graves Battleborne – 1st level fighter, chain, warhammer, light crossbow, and glaive
Tom Rakewell – 1st level rogue, leather, rapier, dagger(s), and shortbow

Game Summary

We started out in one of the northernmost cities in the kingdom (call it Duluth) that the adventures launch from, with six mostly down-on-their-luck adventurers deciding that the seediest of the three inns I provided them with descriptions of (thanks, donjon!) was their kind of place.

Friends in Low Places

After kicking it around and winning some money off some folks, they noted that there were two groups that seemed out of place. A dwarven priestess was circulating, talking to folks. Fair and well dressed, she was definitely not from around here. The other was a pair of ragged-looking folks that claimed to be merchants.

Engaging with both in turn, they found out that the two “merchants” had somehow come across a load of a valuable quarry rock as they were moving from the only city farther north than this one – call it Grand Marais. They quickly assembled a “guard” of a few local woodsmen to get the stuff from Grand Marais to Duluth.

But they never made it. Something attacked them in the night, and at the first sign of trouble, they bolted, leaving their erstwhile guards to their fates. The cart and horse that they left behind was their only real possession, and so they arrived in Duluth destitute, and in trouble with the merchants guild to boot.

The priestess revealed that a different caravan had left Grand Marais – there’s a dwarven settlement there – and had never arrived in Duluth. The priestess was slumming because no one was really that interested in tracking it down.

The players concluded that the same threat had gotten both caravans. They went to the merchant’s guild, and told of the plan to go investigate, since no one else would. The guild was happy to have someone go north to investigate – their resources to do so were tied up, and even if they weren’t, the number of missing caravans was worrisome but not catastrophic.

They offered the party the price of a cart and two horses – about 135gp – with 15gp up front. The party negotiated up to 30 gp up front, and 135 if they brought back evidence of what happened. They’re also given a more detailed map of the area, and they reason out the route that the “merchants” must have taken when they fled.

They gear up and head out.

Tracking and Fight

Keeping it short, they head north along the most likely route, and with some very nice rolls, easily find the path that the merchant’s took on their flight south. With some other rolls, including a roll of 25 on a Nature roll, they also see that in weeks before the merchants came south, a Large (game-mechanical large) humanoid had crossed the area. They guess ogre, troll, minotaur type stuff. But they also find traces of pursuit by more human foes, where six to a dozen man-sized creatures, and maybe a horse or two, came south after the merchants.

What to do?

The cleric casts Detect Evil and uses Insight to determine which of the two groups were more evil. The large humanoid wins, but not necessarily a a lot.

They seek it out, and arrive at a cave entrance which has the refuse and smashed remains of human and dwarven civilization strewn around the clearing at its mouth. The party makes a ton of good Stealth rolls (and the monster rolled a 5 for Perception anyway) . . . but then Graves the Fighter shouts out a ringing challenge.

Ogre McStupidface charges out of his cave, into a withering hail of missile fire. This depletes the ogre’s reserve of skill and luck quickly, and he rapidly starts taking wounds.

Still, he closes with graves and deals him a smashing blow to the torso – it might have killed him except for a heavy armor master feat, which turned the blow.

The rest of the group piles on with more missiles, and finally two crits on three consecutive attacks push the ogre over the edge to death.

Game Analysis

This game is maybe 60% real game and 40% playtest. The rules are robust enough to just play (yay!), but there are subtleties that come up, that are worth noting.

Such as

  • I didn’t decide the native religion or pantheon that is core to the area that the adventurers hail from. Fixed that.
  • Need a really good starter rumor table to provide inspiration for what’s going on in the town.
  • The merchants’ guild featured somewhat heavily in the backstory here (ok, made it up), but fleshing out the importance and role of guilds in the home country is a good background detail
  • Need to determine fair prices of stuff, including things like “find and recover.”
  • There needs to be a tweak to one of the combat rules based on the monster’s size; that’ll be easy to do, but I want to give it the right amount of thought
  • I need to go through the spells again and adjust them for a ranged weapon fix I made. Sigh. That’s a lot of work.
  • I got some math wrong on one of the new rules, so larger, more skilled folks are demoralized more easily. Oops. Again, easy fix, but good to catch it now.
  • Fixed a new rule about trading exhaustion for another game effect, and everyone discussed and agreed that the new fix was suitable.
  • One of the new feats is really, really powerful, and variant humans can get it at first level. Gotta fix that by toning it down.
  • A six-on-one battle where the one has no ranged weapons to speak of will not go well for the one in nearly every case. Still, ogre could have one-shotted Graves but for that too-powerful feat.
I also, mid-game, got a revision to the layout document. It’s pretty.
I’ve playtested a lot of books for others. I read through, I do math, I occasionally use the rules (more now than in the past, because now I have a few game groups, and then I had none).

This weekend, and soon in the future, my ever-expanding Heretical D&D project will get playtested. Sure, I’ve playtested it before.

Let me rephrase this: I have playtested it before. Me. As GM, with players. But me.

That means I know what I wrote, how I want it to feel, and can wing it accordingly. 

A prospective GM with a new group? None of that.

This is a good thing. But scary. Scary-good.

Because is all they have is my (incomplete) manuscript. And it’s not small, like Technical Grappling, which was 35,000 words and 50 PDF pages. No, this is 130,000 words and about 200 pages if it were laid out (which it’s not) or 300+ in Word format (which it is).

So there’s a lot of room to get lost. 

Anyway, here’s what I asked for in terms of feedback. 

You’ll play the game. You’ll have things that work, and things that make you wonder, and things that do not work. Then let me know:

1. What was the situation? 

2. How did it (a) delight you, (b) make you scratch your head, or (c) make you say “hell no!”The first is key, because it becomes a selling point. The second is key because it makes me think about how to rewrite for clarity. The third is key because it makes people walk away.

3. How did you resolve it?

My only request is try not to indulge in too much tangency from the rules unless stuff Just Don’t Work – case (c) above. I want to see what works and doesn’t as is.

We’ll see what happens. No matter what, I’m hoping to seriously re-engage with the project again now that I’m back from Malaysia and quite a few things have started to settle out in my personal/work life. 

Question to other game designers/writers who are aiming at publication, not simply writing rules for one’s own group:

What’s the most useful feedback you can ask for or receive that doesn’t fit with my above direction? What do I need to look for?

Eventually I’m going to Kickstart this to take it over the goal line. But not yet – not until I have a manuscript worthy of publication. That way, I can just say “Here’s my project schedule, here are the tasks, here are the people I need to hire do to work I cannot, and here’s the help I need from the Kickstart backers.”

I don’t want to wind up on +Erik Tenkar‘s Wall of Shame, after all.