Thread: E6: The Game Inside D&D
Tuesday, 4th September, 2007, 03:02 AM #1
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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 E6E6 vs d20
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 AdvancementCapstone FeatsFor Villains
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.
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