Tuesday, 24th July, 2007, 01:53 AM #1
E6: The Game Inside D&D (with PDFs!)
This is E6’s fifth major thread here at EN World; this is started to reorganize our discussion. The .pdf files for E6 and Raising the Stakes are attached to this post. Enjoy!
E6: The Game Inside D&D
What is E6?
Earlier this year Ryan Dancey suggested that D&D has four distinct quartiles of play:
Levels 1-5: Gritty fantasy
Levels 6-10: Heroic fantasy
Levels 11-15: Wuxia
Levels 16-20: Superheroes
There’s been some great discussion about how to define those quartiles, and how each group finds some quartiles more fun than others.
E6 is a game about those first 2 quartiles, and as a result, it has fewer rules, a low-magic flavor, and it is quick and easy to prepare. I have playtested the system extensively with my crew, and it works as intended. There seems to be a lot of lively debate about E6, and some real interest in how it works, so I've revised it here.
How E6 works
Like D&D, E6 is a game of enigmatic wizards, canny rogues, and mighty warriors who rise against terrible dangers and overcome powerful foes. But instead of using D&D’s 20 levels to translate characters into the rules, E6 uses only the first 6. E6 is about changing one of D&D’s essential assumptions, but despite that it doesn't need a lot of rules to do so.
In E6, the stats of an average person are the stats of a 1st-level commoner. Like their medieval counterparts, this person has never travelled more than a mile from their home. Imagine a 6th-level Wizard or 6th-level Fighter from the commoner's perspective. The wizard could kill everyone in your village with a few words. The fighter could duel with ten armed guards in a row and kill every one of them. If you spot a manticore, everyone you know is in terrible, terrible danger. Against such a creature, the wizard or fighter may be your only hope. E6 recognizes that 6th level characters are mortal, while providing a context where they are epic heroes.
Levels 1 to 6 was the period where a character comes into his own, where a crash course in action and danger transforms them from 1st-level commoners into capable fighting men (or corpses). Once transformed by their experiences, a character’s growth is no longer a continuous, linear progression. There are still major differences between the master warriors and the veteran mercenaries, but it's not a change of scale.
Character progression from level 1 to level 6 is as per D&D. Upon attaining 6th level, for each 5000 experience a character gains, they earn a new feat. A diverse selection of feats should be made available in any E6 campaign, however, feats with unattainable prerequisites under this system remain unattainable.
For the purpose of experience awards, treat each 5 feats as +1 CR (or level), to an upper limit of 20 feats. After this, a ratio of 10 feats to 1 CR can be used, as it becomes more and more difficult to bring all a character’s feats to bear in a given situation. Alternatively, and at the GM’s option, player-characters with more than 20 feats can simply be always treated as if they were level 10 for experience and challenge purposes.
For the GM
E6 isn't just a change for the players: Monsters are presented differently than in d20. Just as level 6 parties in D&D aren’t expected to tangle with monsters higher than CR 10, the mighty monsters of E6 require special consideration for presentation in-game. E6 characters aren't intended to go up against high-level D&D threats under the same circumstances as high-level D&D characters; those creatures, if they are defeatable at all, require the kind of resources and planning far beyond the typical D&D encounter.
In terms of raw rules, CR 7-10 monsters are an excellent guide for what E6 characters can handle. As they rise to around the 20-feat range, the range is more like 7-12. Beyond that, a DM should take monsters in the CR 7-12 range and use feats (and to a lesser extent templates) to advance them. Hit die or class-based advancement beyond CR 12, or base monsters above CR 12 should generally be avoided as straight-up fights.
Of course, not every monstrous encounter is a straight-up fight. For example, insane horrors from another age might be a reason to run, and there is little a character could do in the face of an angry Titan. But these situations don’t call for direct confrontation, except with some special resource or amazing circumstance. Perhaps, in a special ritual with the presence of 20 mages, a Titan can be bound to the mortal realm (lowering its stats to an Aspect of Kord), with whom the players can do battle. Again, that's far from a straight-up fight with a CR 20 creature, but we can console ourselves with the fact that it's probably a very memorable encounter.
If, as a result of the restrictions on items, an item cannot be created, then it should not be distributed as normal treasure. Like high-level monsters, such items should be placed carefully and built to make sense in the context of your game. For example, a +4 sword can’t be made by a human wizard, but it could be crafted by a Titan (which makes for great god-stats). That's a sword that no mortal can make.
E6 will always inherit d20's balance issues at the same level, especially issues that result from scenarios where those characters d20 characters have long periods of downtime. The best approach is to be cognizant of these issues when considering what feats to allow in your E6 game.
On Allowing Feats
Benefits of E6E6 vs d20
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To the regulars: I changed Ability Training to provide a small benefit.
The following feats have been created specifically with E6 in mind.
For Ability AdvancementCapstone FeatsFor Villains
The E6 FAQ
Q: So characters just stop levelling at 6?
A: That’s right. Characters who have reached level 6 have proven themselves, but this extremely rapid growth does not go on forever. Instead, they master specialized techniques, or become more versatile. This stage of a character’s development is represented by gaining new feats.
Q: Does E6 change the stacking rules? For example, can I take Weapon Focus twice and have it stack? Can I take Skill Focus twice and have it stack?
A: The stacking rules remain the same as in standard D&D.
Q: What if I want there to be a higher level magical effect, but still use E6?
The rules for rituals in Unearthed Arcana are an excellent fit for E6, to support things like opening portals to another dimension, higher-level divinations, and so on. When a spell is a 3-day event requiring 20 mages, it’s more of a plot point than a spell itself, and that maeks it a great a springboard for challenging the players.
Q: As a DM, I like running things on the fly. Can E6 support that kind of play?
A: Absolutely. A DM that knows how to estimate the abilities of enemies in the low-level range can use that knowledge throughout the campaign. Likewise, familiarity breeds mastery – and for feats, spells, and monsters, there is more chance for a DM to become familiar with abilities in an appropriate range to the PCs, even if he is using a diverse selection of monsters. Furthermore, Dungeon Masters can get much more mileage out of their previous work: The stats of a 5th-level sorcerer written for 4th level PCs is still a useful tool months of gametime later against characters who are 6th level +10 feats.
Q: Can you make high-level items as a low-level caster in E6?
A: No, caster level requirements for magic items are treated as hard requirements.
Q: If a character took multiple classes, or Prestige Classes, suddenly you've got a guy with saves that are seriously out of whack. Is this a game-breaking issue?
A: If you multiclass that much, you're probably doing it to get the saves. In that situation, your saves are your special ability. Moreover, saves are passive abilities; the player doesn't control when their character uses a save, which gives them limited appeal compared to stuff the player can control. So if a player goes after them like crazy, and succeeds in having really exceptional saves – let them have their fun.
Q: I prefer stopping at around 8th level, does that work for this system?
A: The system will probably work about as well at 8th level, but note that “Epic 6th” characters do end up being more powerful than regular 6th level characters. Epic 6th may be what you want for a game that sits at the power level for Level 8, and Epic 8th may cater more closely to Level 10 style play.
Q: Does E6 work with a slower progression to level 6? Does it work when characters are created at 2nd level?
Yes and yes. I've tried both during my playtesting period. I'll be starting my new game at 3rd level.
Q: I’m not a big fan of experience points. Do you need a strict XP system to make E6 work?
A: An ad-hoc "gain a feat" approach would work absolutely 100% with this system. I used to do that with other systems (power up when the story makes it appropriate) and given the fact that the upper end of the power curve flattens off, that method should go very smoothly with E6.
Q: Can you use Prestige Classes with E6?
A: I’d recommend taking the same approach you take in your regular D&D game. If you allow Prestige Classes there, feel free to allow them here. Of course, characters capped at 6th level can usually take at most 1 level of a Prestige Class.
Q: With only 6 levels, how do races with a level adjustment work?
If you use races with a level adjustment, the 6th level cap is a big issue. Use the point buy rules in the DMG as follows:
LA Point buy
Thus, +LA races should start with zero LA, but use the point buy listed here. Keep in mind the difference between LA and racial hit dice (the two combine to give starting ECL).
Why is E6 designed this way?
The most recent version of these house rules is in the Raising the Stakes pdf attached to the first post. This post is just for the convenience of those who want to reference E6 and Raising the Stakes on one forum page.
Raising the Stakes
Here are some E6-related links:
The OGC E6 Wiki
D&D Calibrating Your Expectations
mfrench's (mostly) free stuff E6 campaign
Netbook of Feats
Quick Templates for E6
These templates up the CR of existing creatures quickly and easily by adding blocks of 5 feats.
Khuxan’s discoveryEvilhalfling’s list of Wondrous Items
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
- Join Date
- Aug 2003
- Berea, Kentucky
ř Ignore Shazman
Does caster training increase your spellcaster level in all aspects (spell slots, known, etc.) or is it only supposed to increase the range, duration, and damage of the spells you can already cast (like practiced spellcaster)?
I really like what you've done with the feats. Martial veteran is a very simple and elegant way to give the fighter 6 a boost. Now a fighter (and only a fighter) can get improved critical, weapon mastery, and greater weapon focus.
Last edited by Shazman; Tuesday, 24th July, 2007 at 10:41 AM.
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
- Join Date
- Aug 2003
- Berea, Kentucky
ř Ignore Shazman
You should probably change the text of the feat to make that specific. As written, it sounds like a figther 4/wizard 2 would be have all of the spellcasting ability of a wizard 6 with this feat.
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