Chapter 1 – Introduction
Thanks for agreeing to participate in this test of the game. I’d like ask right off the bat that you keep this manual PRIVATE. Destroy it if you must, to keep it out of the hands of enemies. I expect you to say nothing under torture, and swallow your suicide tooth-bombs if you have no chance to escape.
You may be wondering why I’m building this RPG; it’s not just an attempt to suit the existing mechanics of D&D to my own arbitrary tastes (which is what a lot of D&D clones seem to be aiming for). The game actually started as an attempt to build an MMORPG (massively-multiplayer online roleplaying game) with more freedom than is allowed in current online games. Eventually it occurred to me that I might be able to use this same system to give a regular pencil-and-paper RPG (PRPG) a lot more freedom as well.
I don’t ask anything from you except to try and keep your mind open. Forget all you know about RPGs, those of you with more experience playing D&D. Players new to the game try to do something with their characters that they might try in real life, if they had the powers of their characters. We veterans, on the other hand, channel everything we want our character to do into the rules of the system. This is, in my opinion, awful. The freedom to make your character do exactly what you want is the one quality that separates RPGs from all other forms of fantasy entertainment. Yes, it’s always an option for the DM to change the game to allow exceptions, but it tends to be so much work that if it’s not written into the rules itself, it is not usually done.
Stephanie, for example, had things in mind for her characters that were really cool, but which the game outright denied. For example, I liked the idea of her semi-suicidal character going around and zapping people with electrically-charged hands. The only restraint in a game should be game balance, i.e. she shouldn’t be able to kill a dragon by pointing at it, but I see no reason to disallow her character concept entirely.
You may next be saying that it is not possible to have a single set of rules work for every contingency; the rules would get vastly out of control. While it is true that flexibility often comes at the cost of increasing complexity, I may have found a way to cheat (though it may turn out to be infeasible). I won’t go into it here, but let’s just say that randomness is downright predictable if you look at things from the right perspective. For example; the more d6’s you roll, the closer the average of rolls is to 3.5. Obviously this is true, but there are deeper truths in the field of statistics. I’ve woven some into the game in the hopes of giving it tremendous power at a relatively low cost. But anyway, that’s beside the point. In the end, the game must be fun to play, which is why I’ve invited you all to help me try it out.
Chapter 2 – Transition Tips for D&D Players
Now, on with the game. A few things in the game are similar to D&D, but most of the game only looks a lot like D&D and so may be a pitfall to veterans of D&D v3.0+. I’ll cover them here.
Property Physical Mental Social
Strong Strength Imagination Confidence
Quick Dexterity Intelligence Guile
Healthy Constitution Wisdom Will
In D&D, the ability score modifiers are, in essence, just circumstance bonuses. Getting a +2 modifier due to your dexterity has as much an effect in combat as a flanking bonus. In the long run, a character’s individual ability scores are pretty much rendered moot except that you need that much more bonus from circumstance or magic or whatever else to reach the same level of ability in a conflict. In this game, a character’s starting abilities have a deep, fundamental effect on the life of that character.
Most RPGs are either “level-based” or “point-based”. Both kinds of systems have their pros and cons, but D&D is level-based supposedly because, according to Monte Cook (one of the original writers of D&D v3 & 3.5), it provides motivation for the players to move forward. Personally I think it is more a matter of taste but this game uses a point-based system because it is more compatible with the conflict-resolution mechanic of the game. This may be a startling change as skills will take prominence over character class. Next I’ll briefly go over the main mechanics of the game. It’s important to understand the difference between the D&D equivalents, because as mentioned they look similar enough that it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking they are exactly the same.
Skills, Feats → Talents: Talents are what you would get if skills and most feats were rolled up into one. Talents, like D&D skills, have ranks and your character will get better at them as you spend more talent-points on them. However, there are no class and cross-class talents; every talent point purchases exactly one rank in a talent. So what’s to stop a barbarian from purchasing a few ranks in “Move Silently” and outclassing the party rogue in the sneaky department? Unlike D&D, a single rank does not provide a flat 5% increase the chances of success. Instead, the development is non-linear, and it takes a considerable points-investment in the talent before your character will be capable of taking on any significant challenges. As such, the barbarian has probably wasted his points spending them this way; only the rogue, who’s already invested a lot of points in the “sneaky” department, will benefit from a few extra ranks.
Another difference between talents and skills is that talents cover a wider base of abilities. Instead of weapon-proficiency feats, fighters will be spending a large number of their talent points on weapon and armor talents. Instead of getting free spells and spell slots, pure wizards will have most of their talent points spent in spellcasting talents. This system provides you the player with much more flexibility when it comes to building up the character to match a concept you may have in mind. Maybe you want to play a monk who’s been wrongly accused of murder. He’s had to hide in a large metropolis to avoid being caught, and gone to the wrong side of the law to survive. In D&D this character would be a monk/thief multiclassed character, or maybe a monk or thief with certain feat selections. In this game, it’s a lot easier; start with a typical monk configuration, but move some of the talent points over to thiefly skills. This character wouldn’t be as good a monk as he could have been due to lack of training, but he makes for a half-decent thief.
Class Abilities → Powers: Powers are the equivalent of class abilities in D&D. The problem with class abilities, as defined in D&D, is that they make classes extremely resistant to customization. With class abilities stuck to particular classes, the details of any given class may go against a character concept you have in mind. Your only other option is to either try very hard to build a character’s progression through classes, secondary classes, and prestige classes to make it match, or else request the DM allow you to make changes (which can get cumbersome).
In order to maintain game balance, powers aren’t as easy to buy as talent ranks. Every power has a set of prerequisites that must be met, in order to be purchased. These are a lot like the prerequisites of prestige classes, but you don’t get the extra stuff that normally comes with a prestige class (unless you want to buy it, too).
Chapter 3 – Abilities and Character Creation Summary
In this game, your character’s ability scores have a far more fundamental effect on the game.
Those qualities of your character that you use in a conflict are referred to as resources, be they swords and spells or ability scores and skill ranks. At the DM’s option, you may be asked to use a different resource in a conflict than you’re used to, or more than one. One notable example that I’ve heard players actively complain about in D&D is that the “Intimidate” skill uses charisma as the key ability score. Why not strength? Or maybe a show of swordsmanship, depending on dexterity. In this game, all talents (the equivalent of skills) are unrestricted in this way. Most of the time you would use Strength for an intimidate check, but you very well could use other resources if appropriate. A “Move Silently” check typically requires dexterity, but it might be more appropriate to use strength to avoid making heavy footfalls if you were trying to stealthily transport a large, bulky golden statue out of the trove of a sleeping dragon. In some cases the DM might ask you to use both strength and dexterity to pull off the check; details on how to do this are given later.
Chapter 3 – Classes
Sorcerer – DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SORCERER/WIZARD = SORCERER CASTS SPONTANEOUSLY, BUT TAKES LONGER TO CAST AND USES MORE RESOURCES; WIZARD REDUCES RISK OF FAILURE SIGNIFICANTLY BUT MUST MEMORIZE AHEAD OF TIME (and when he tries to cast spontaneously, he uses even more time and resources than the sorcerer).
Chapter 4 – Races
Chapter 5 – Cultures and Backgrounds
Chapter 6 – Talents
What your character is capable of is not defined by his class, but by skills or “talents” he develops as a consequence of training within his class. Talents are al part of talent-trees, shown at the end of this chapter. To find your talent level, add the ranks of that talent to every parent talent above it in the talent tree. Each talent is named so that if you have any experience at all in D&D (v3 or later), you will basically understand the talents that have the same name as D&D skills. Note that each tree starts at a single root talent, which you will start the game with some degree of proficiency already.
A difference from D&D skills is that you can save up unspent talent points and buy ranks in a specific skill or buy powers later in the game. Surprisingly, you can even spend your talent points during combat, but only on your action and not in response to someone else’s action. For example, if your character was just shot by an arrow that threatens to kill him, you cannot suddenly pour five talent points into your “dodge” talent, to change the result and avoid getting hit by the arrow. You can, however, spend five talent points to increase your “dodge” talent just before engaging in combat with several archers. Note that spending talent points is permanent, so you cannot recover spent talent points later.
Although one talent point turns into one rank in a skill, there is a byproduct by spending talent points farther down a talent tree. By buying a number of ranks in a talent, you get half the amount as a bonus to the “parent” talent. Repeat this process for every parent up the tree. By specializing in talents farther down the trees, you are rewarded with faster development; you will get really good, really fast. The trade-off is that by specializing, you lose out on flexibility. If you instead invest in talents higher up, you’ll advance more slowly in them but you’ll become better at a lot of skills at the same time.
For example, let’s say you spend four ranks in the “Longsword”, the talent that allows you to wield a longsword in combat. By spending four ranks, you get half as many ranks in the parent talent, namely “Slash”, the talent that allows you to wield slashing weapons. Due to the two extra ranks in “Slash”, you also get half that many ranks in the parent talent “Wield”, the talent you would use to attempt to wield anything at all as a weapon. The net result is that the character gains +7 ranks (= +4 longsword +2 slash +1 wield) to wield a longsword in combat, but he only gets +3 ranks to wield other slashing weapons and +1 to wield anything in general.
Now, instead of specializing, let’s say you decided to generalize instead, and spend the four ranks in the “Wield” talent. With this configuration, your character is worse by –3 ranks at wielding a longsword, but he can wield any other slashing sword better by +1 rank and anything else better by +3. In a competition, the first configuration would likely win as long as he kept his hands on his longsword, but otherwise he’d be sunk.
One of the limitations of D&D skills is that it is very difficult to make new ones. The only place you’re allowed to substitute your own skills is within the “category” skills: Craft, Knowledge, Perform, and Profession. Talents are not limited this way, and as a result have tremendous flexibility. As a player, if you want your character to be good at a talent not defined in the existing list, you are encouraged to build your own. To invent a new talent, start by simply defining it; next, find an existing talent it is most similar and set it as a child of that talent. If you have a highly specialized talent, the DM may allow you to put in an intermediate talent, as a parent of the new talent and a child of the existing talent (though this should happen only very rarely). You will start with zero ranks in a talent, plus any bonus inherited from parent talents and any new ranks you spend on it.
Escape Artist Politics
e.g. Local, Nobility
Hide Religion & Royalty
Move Silently Science
Perform (Dance, Mime,
Spell Theory Spot
Hold Breath Sense Motive
Run (Particular Species)
Resist Magical Wounding Socialize
Resist Poison Bluff
e.g. Acting, Comedic
e.g. Juggle Wield
Sling Musical Instrument Chain
Quick Draw Slash
Sleight of Hand Pierce
You get a few more free ranks in the “Knowledge” talent than you would in D&D. Your character is assumed to have working knowledge in talent in which he is trained. For example, if you have a fighter with 7 ranks in “Longsword” but no ranks in Slash or Wield, you can make a knowledge check regarding longswords with the same bonus (i.e. 7 + 3½ +1¾ = 12¼) The same is true not only of known talents, but of the character’s culture and background as well. Spending ranks in the Knowledge talents represents education beyond what the character has earned by simply growing up and training. Since the character lacks ranks in the actual talent, the knowledge is probably not practical except possibly with such talents as Sense Motive (particular animal species like Bear), where the character would be looking at signals from the animal to detect it’s motive.
Chapter 7 – Powers
As mentioned in the “Talents” chapter, players are allowed to store unused talent points and spend them at almost any time. Besides talent ranks, you can also purchase powers. Powers are considerably more expensive, however, so that to buy a power you must spend a certain number of talent points and in many cases powers have prerequisites as well. Certain powers can be “leveled up”, so that you can buy the next level of a power after you have purchased the previous one. Following is a list of available powers; your DM is free allow or disallow these or other powers at his option. They are categorized by class because, in most cases, the costs and prerequisites prohibit characters from buying powers outside the domain (i.e. class) they have the most talent ranks in, though technically there is nothing stopping a character from buying powers from any class.
Rage, Fast Movement (+ half move), Bardic Music, Bardic Knowledge, Turn Undead,, Woodland Stride, Trackless Step, Animal Companion, Summon Familiar, Cleave, Wounding Strike, Healing Touch, Wild Shape, Elemental Shape, Ki Strike, Empty Body, Sneak Attack,
Chapter 8 – Tips For Players
Chapter 9 – Combat
D&D has only one
Chapter 10 – General Conflicts
Chapter 11 – Spellcasting 101
Chapter 12 – Spell Compendium