E6: The Game Inside D&D
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    E6: The Game Inside D&D

    Note to mods: E6 was born in House Rules, but I ran the idea of posting in General past Piratecat a while ago, and it’s finally ready for the bigtime. Thanks!

    This is E6’s sixth major incarnation here at EN World; in this thread I hope to talk about preparing E6 games, how to talk to skeptical players about E6, and your actual play experiences with E6. The E6 and Raising the Stakes .pdfs are attached to this post. Enjoy!

    E6: The Game Inside the World’s Most Popular RPG

    What is E6?

    Earlier this year a fellow named Ryan Dancey suggested that d20 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 at EN World and elsewhere about how to define those quartiles, and how each group eventually finds the quartiles that suit them best.

    E6 is a game about d20’s first two quartiles, and focuses on continuously delivering exciting heroic fantasy, even in a very long campaign. Like d20, E6 can be adapted to a wide variety of settings, from high-magic action-adventure where magic takes the place of technology to low-magic worlds where sorcerers are spoken of in frightened whispers and dragons are the stuff of legend. E6 keeps all the benefits and familiarity of low-level d20 games: Fast-paced combat, quick prep, and an incredible wealth of third-party material that can be used with the game. E6 has been playtested extensively, and its rules that can be explained to veteran d20 players in under a minute.

    How E6 works

    Like d20, 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 d20’s 20 levels to translate characters into the rules, E6 uses only the first 6. E6 is about changing one of d20’s essential assumptions, but it doesn't need a lot of rules to make that change.

    To understand E6, imagine the perspective of the average medieval peasant in a d20 game. This person has the stats of a 1st-level commoner, and while they might not know their stats explicitly, they know their relation to the rest of the world. Our peasant knows that he can be killed quite easily by maurauding raiders, enemy soldiers, or even wild animals. He’s not mighty, he’s not organized, and he doesn’t have any special skills to bring to bear when danger strikes. He worries about drought and flood, and the welfare of his livestock. His extended family likely all lives within a mile of his birthplace. To him, a trip to a town ten miles off is an expedition into the unknown.

    Imagine you are this peasant, and you meet a trio of 6th-level adventurers. When you address the wizard, you are speaking to someone who could incinerate your home and slay all your livestock with a few words. The fighter has prevailed against a dozen orcish skirmishers and slain them all – and he could do the same again. The cleric is a man so holy that the gods themselves have granted him the power to cure the sick and heal the wounded. These are epic heroes.

    Now consider the powers of a CR 5 manticore. To the peasant, the appearance of this manticore near the village isn’t a nuisance: the beast can, and likely will slay you in seconds if you draw its attention. You, your livestock, and your entire family are in immediate danger of violent death. Even if you were well armed and gathered a large peasant militia, your village faces heavy losses and no guarantee of success. Against such a creature, adventurers may be your only hope. E6 recognizes that 6th level characters are mortal, while reframing the game’s perspective to create a context where those same 6th level characters are epic heroes.

    What levels mean in E6

    Levels 1 to 6 are a period when a character comes into his own, and a crash course in action and danger transforms them from 1st-level commoners to veteran adventurers (or corpses). Once transformed by their experiences, a character’s growth is no longer a continuous, linear progression. Instead, they specialize or broaden their abilities: There are still major differences between the master warriors and the veteran mercenaries, but it's not a change of scale. This change in progression, which we see frequently in fantasy literature, is modeled through the acquisition of feats.


    Character progression from level 1 to level 6 is as per d20. 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, it becomes more and more difficult to bring all a character’s feats to bear in a given situation; although they continue to gain feats, 6th level characters with more than 20 feats can continue to be treated as if they were level 10 for experience and challenge purposes.

    Monsters and Items in E6

    Just as level 6 parties in d20 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 d20 threats under the same circumstances as high-level d20 characters; those creatures, if they are defeatable at all, require the kind of resources and planning far beyond the typical d20 dungeon encounter.

    In terms of raw rules, CR 7-10 monsters are an excellent guide for what 6th level characters can handle. As a party approaches 6th level plus 20 feats, that range also increases, and PCs are able to fight monsters with base CRs in the range of CR 9 to 12, or larger groups of lower-level monsters. If a campaign continues beyond this point (and congratulations, because that’s a lot of gaming) a GM 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 in any E6 campaign.

    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 a Hill Giant with the spells of a 6th-level sorcerer), 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.

    Items follow a similar approach. 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 is an amazing artifact in this setting, perhaps even made by the gods: It's a sword no mortal could make.

    Benefits of E6
    1. Very fast play at every level of the campaign.
    2. Focus on planning, not levelling. To defeat the black dragon Zolanderos, the CR 10 terror of Staunwark Island, the heroes will need help, special resources, and information. I want to further encourage party-directed adventuring, and if the heroes want to take on something 4 to 6 CR above them, then that's what they will require.
    3. A low magic game that everyone knows how to play.
    4. Never a need for meaningless encounters. The players can be involved in a dozen or so major combat scenarios (perhaps more than one encounter each) and have proven themselves and made a major accomplishment. See Lord of the Rings movies, or most fantasy novels.
    5. Classic monsters stay classic throughout the campaign; Chimeras and Aboleths start scary, and stay scary. Dragons are always exciting encounters.
    6. Even legendary heroes remain mortal; while a 6th level fighter who has taken toughness several times can take on a good mob, he isn't invulnerable. The sorcerer's 6d6 fireballs are phenomenal, but not so powerful that he can destroy a village and not fear retaliation.
    7. Quicker prep. Make a 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 6th version of a sorcerer, and now you have a whole sorcerous dragon-cult that can last you through your whole campaign.
    8. You can put what you've learned of the rules to good use. It's hard to know every 4th through 9th level spell out there; they're the ones we see the least. But we've seen 0th through 3rd level spells many, many times, and mastery over them is relatively simple.
    9. E6 is a great system for on the fly GMing. If you’re reasonably familiar with what a 2nd level threat looks like, power-wise, you can probably get away with running it without stats handy.
    E6 vs d20

    Here's how I see E6 vs standard d20, in terms of power levels.

    Character advancement in d20 is an upward sloping curve; levels are a linear, but the feats and magic items that get added on top makes the progression even faster. As players get better and better combinations of items and feats and class abilities, they can combine them in better and better ways. This leads to levelling out of the Heroic Fantasy quartile (6-10) and into the Wuxia quartile (11-15). The Wuxia quartile is also more complex, which is another mark against it for some.

    Levelling in E6 is like d20 till 6th level, and a character never stops advancing. But feat-based advancement is naturally slower than level-based advancement, and while you keep getting closer and closer to CR 10 power level, you're getting there more and more slowly; feats always add a mechanical benefit, but the combinations and permutations of the feats and items you've acquired don't "crack the top" of CR 10 power level.

    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.
    Extra Feats

    There several philosophies on what feats to allow in an E6 game, but in any long-running E6 game some expansion feats should be made available for players to continue to grow their characters in different ways.

    Which feats you allow depends on what you want for your own game. Some GMs want to encourage single-classing, others are happy to tell their players to work within a framework, choosing only those feats that match the style of their campaign. Some want to see more gestalt-style characters and allow feat chains towards specific classes’ abilities. Many GMs make a real-world decision, allowing feats from publishers they trust, or all feats from the books the GM owns. The original E6 campaign allowed feats on an ad-hoc basis; players were encouraged to develop various aspects of their characters rather than linear power, but were allowed to suggest feats if they couldn’t find something that worked in the available rules. Ultimately, the decision on what feats to allow belongs to the GM, and should naturally vary from one E6 campaign to the next.

    All of these feats should be considered suggestions – each E6 game is different and it is always up to the individual GM what they want to allow.

    For Ability Advancement
    Ability Training (General)
    You spend time honing one of your Abilities: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma.
    Benefit: Choose one Ability; treat that Ability as having a +2 bonus to that Ability Score whenever you are making an Ability Check. This bonus does not count when making a skill check or for any other use of that ability.
    Special: You can gain this feat multiple times, its effects do not stack. Each time you take this feat it applies to another ability.

    Ability Advancement (General)
    Your training pays off, and one of your Abilities increases.
    Prerequisite: Ability Training in the same ability.
    Benefit: Choose one Ability. You gain a permanent +2 bonus to that ability. This bonus does nto stack with the benefit from Ability Training.
    Special: You can gain this feat multiple times, its effects do not stack. Each time you take this feat it applies to another ability.
    Capstone Feats
    Martial Veteran (General) (comrade_raoul)
    Prerequisites: Fighter level 6th.
    Benefit: You may select feats with a requirement of up to fighter level 8, and with a Base Attack Bonus requirement of up to +8.
    Special: A fighter may select Martial Veteran as one of his bonus feats.

    Roguish Ability [General]
    Prerequisite: Rogue 6
    Benefit: You learn one rogue special ability.
    Special: This feat may be taken only once.

    Barbaric Resilience [General]
    Prerequisite: Barbarian 6
    Benefit: You gain DR 1/--

    Skill Beyond Your Years
    Prerequisite: Level 6
    Pick a skill. Your max ranks rise from Level+3 to Level +5.

    Holy Strikes [General]
    Prerequisite: Paladin 6
    Benefit: Your melee attacks are considered good for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction.

    Mighty Wild Shape [General]
    Prerequisite: Druid level 6
    Choose 1 Large animal. You can wildshape into that animal.

    Bardic Inspiration [General]
    Prerequisite: Bard level 6
    The bonus granted by your inspire courage ability increases to +2.

    Extra Domain Power [General] (Shazman)
    Prerequisites: Wis 18 +, Cleric level 6, Knowledge (religion) 9 ranks, Skill Focus: Knowledge (religon)
    Benefit: You gain the domain power of one additional domain associated with your deity. You may only take this feat once.

    Extra Domain Access (General) (Shazman)
    Prerequisities: Wis 18 +, Cleric level 6, Knowledge (religion) 9 ranks, Extra Domain Power, Skill Focus: Knowledge (religion)
    Benefit: You gain access to the domain spell list of one additional domain assciated with your deity. This domain must be the same one as that chosen for the Extra Domain Power feat. You may only take this feat once.

    Restoration (General)
    Prerequisites: 6th level, ability to cast 3rd-level divine spells, Wisdom 18, Healing 9 Ranks
    Benefit: You can use Restoration, as the spell (paying the material component), with a casting time of 1 hour.

    Swift Metamagic (Metamagic) (Kunimatyu)
    Prerequisite: Metamagic feats (see below), Caster Level 6
    Benefit: When you take this feat, select a metamagic feat. As a swift action once per day, you may apply this metamagic feat to a spell you cast with no adjustment to the level of the spell cast.
    Special: You must have a number of Swift metamagic feats equal to the level increase of your chosen metamagic, minus one, to take this feat. For example, Empower Spell, which boosts the level of a spell by 2, has a prerequisite of 1 Swift feat. Split Ray, which has an increase of 1, would have no prerequisites. This feat may be taken multiple times.

    Caster Training (General) (Khuxan)
    You become a more accomplished spellcaster.
    Requirements: Character level 6, caster level 1 or greater.
    Benefit: Your caster level increases by 4, to a maximum of 6. Note this only affects Caster Level (i.e., more dice on your damage, no new spells or slots).

    Expanded Knowledge (General) (PoeticJustice)
    Prerequisite: Character Level 6th
    Benefit: Choose a spellcasting class in which you have levels. You gain an additional spell known at any level you can cast from that class's spell list.

    Expanded Casting (General) (PoeticJustice)
    Prerequisite: Character Level 6th
    Benefit: Choose a spellcasting class in which you have levels. You gain an additional spell slot at any level you can already cast.

    Stone to Flesh (General)
    Prerequisites: 6th level, ability to cast 3rd-level arcane spells, Intelligence 18, Craft (Alchemy) 9 Ranks
    Benefit: You can use stone to flesh, as the spell, with an expensive and secret magical ingredient with a market value of 1000 gp and a casting time of 1 day.

    Excelling Flurry [General]
    Prereq: Monk 6
    Benefit: You use Flurry of Blows with no penalty to your attack bonus. In addition, you qualify for feats that a Monk may take as 6th level bonus feats.

    Step of the Wild lands
    Prereq: Ranger 6
    Benefit: You gain the Woodland Stride and Swift Tracking class abilities.

    Wondrous Rings (General)
    Prerequisites: 6th level, Craft Wondrous Item
    Benefit: You treat rings as wondrous items for the purpose of meeting item creation prerequisites. You must still meet caster level requirements for any ring you create.
    For Villains
    Mental Domination (General) (Lord Tirian)
    You're able to subjugate certain people's mind.
    Prerequisite: Having charmed humanoid with HD equal or less than your caster level.
    Benefit: Choose a humanoid with HD equal your caster level or less, you have currently charmed. Treat charm person as dominate person against this person.
    Special: This feat can be taken several times. It applies to a different humanoid each time.


    Raising the Stakes.pdf

    This will be my last revision of E6 for a while; the idea has clearly gotten across, and now it’s time to play my home campaign and work on some of my other design priorities. Thanks to everyone who’s asked questions, set up your own campaigns with E6, and challenged me to improve E6’s writing and presentation. You guys are the best.
    Last edited by Ry; Tuesday, 4th September, 2007 at 02:51 PM.
    XP Yaztromo, Mon gave XP for this post

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