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Thread: 3.5 low magic campaign tips
Friday, 21st September, 2012, 05:46 PM #11
Superhero (Lvl 15)
You might want to use a different system for HP recovery - VP/WP is a decent one.
You might not want to allow characters to fully advance in a single magic-using class (including prestige classes that allow full casting). Force them to multiclass every other level. Wiz5/Clr5 is okay, Wiz10 or Clr10 is not."If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry."
-- Ernest Hemingway, "A Farewell to Arms"
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Friday, 21st September, 2012, 06:02 PM #12
Gallant (Lvl 3)
Last edited by Dordledum; Friday, 21st September, 2012 at 06:07 PM.
Friday, 21st September, 2012, 06:39 PM #13
Defender (Lvl 8)
E6 - the Epic 6.
Basically, your characters gain levels normally up to level 6 and then stop gaining levels at all. You can buy feats for 5,000exp after level 6.
This'll let your heroes be less "superhero" and more "gritty and high fantasy". This removes the godliness of a lot of high level builds.
Saturday, 22nd September, 2012, 04:35 AM #14
Myrmidon (Lvl 10)
I'll give what advice I can from my experiences doing it. Take what you can of it. If you can, you might want to try and dig up a copy of the Black Company Campaign setting from Green Ronin. It has a lot of rules and variant classes that make better use of a rare-magic setting.
* Magic items are rare remnants from another era.Sounds great, but how do you do it in practice? How rare? One thing that helps, is finding system for more mundane-source bonuses. (Making masterwork far more interesting...) The Black Company Campaign setting has one, but that might not be available anymore. I feel like it was grafted from another 3pp d20 game, but couldn't tell you which one.
* Those magic items which remain are few but powerful.So artifacts? If not, make sure you have a plan for how it makes sense for the party not to become the single biggest collector of MIs in your world.
* Magic item crafting is out (knwoledge has been lost).Good idea, in general. Potions? A world without portable healing can be grim indeed.
* Magic items are seldom for sale.Make it never. (Possible exception for healing potions, if you allow them.)
* (NPC) Spellcasters are rare too.All that is very good as well.
* Temples offer religious services, not magical healing.
* Libraries have books, not spells/magical tomes.
* Wizards have to work hard to find sources for new spells (=sidequests).
It sounds to me like you are talking about a rare-magic, rather than low-magic world. Is that what you intend, because they are different. If magic is basically the same, but rarer (for whatever reason) your spellcaster's potency is multiplied. Weakening or limiting magic itself gives a whole different feel.
Some suggestions for weakening casters and magic without having to rewrite the whole game:
- All Casters work more like sorcerers. Casters do not re-memorize a new repertoire of spells every day. Instead they just recharge their slots. Use the same Spells/day chart to determine how many spells a caster might know at each level.
- As a caster goes up in level, they only may learn spells to which they have access to either a trainer or written version. Possible exceptions for clerical domains and specialist wizards.
- Alter/rewrite the metamagic feats like so:
- Subtle Spell: Choose a spell you know, you know another version of that spell which is one level higher. This new version is Subtle, and requires no verbal or somatic components.
- Make spells like Summoning work on only one type of creature, chosen when the spell is learned. So if you want to summon a hawk and a badger, you need two different spells.
Saturday, 22nd September, 2012, 12:42 PM #15
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
If you want to keep non-casters closer on par with casters....
1. Armor items provide damage reduction = half of its AC value against all forms of physical/energy damage (save electricity against metal).
2. All PC weapons are save or die on a natural 20 fort: BAB+Highest Damage Score (i.e. str)
Saturday, 22nd September, 2012, 02:55 PM #16
Grandmaster of Flowers (Lvl 18)
I think a good approach is to have magic weapons & armour that just give +s quite common, makeable by master smiths etc, as those favour non-casters. But stat buff items, wands, and other caster-favouring stuff should be very rare, as in 1e.
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Sunday, 23rd September, 2012, 04:51 PM #17
Gallant (Lvl 3)
Consider making the 9th level casters PrCs, pushing back two levels the casting of 6th level casters, and perhaps removing or also delaying the casting of 4th level casters. And you should perhaps make the Adept a PC class - albeit perhaps with the same 'magic feat every 5 levels' that the wizard gets, and with the same two level delay in casting that other 6th level casters receive (ie: the first two levels they are basically a specialized expert, such as an aristocrat but magic focused).
Consider allowing Potions - or potion equivalents - at half normal frequency - and even allowing other items to replace potions. If the levels of spells are raised, then remember that this will raise the cost of making them, although with rarer adepts to make them the cost should perhaps be raised further.
One idea to consider: change to a silver piece based economy, but keep magic items at their gold piece price (effectively raises their prices 10x). Thus creation time is 10x, few other than royals could consider buying such, and in any case gold was simply uncommon as a form of currency in most middle age settings.
Due to the expectations of CR (ie: the default level of spell and magic item availability), strongly consider changing the types of foes normally encountered, ie: bandits, mad bears, a pack of wolves new to the area, goblins with class levels, and the (very) rare magical beast. Perseus encountered only a few magical beasts and monstrous humanoids in his epic story, not dozens, and those he did encounter were often described as unique monsters; there was no 'race' of medusae, only a singular curst former priestess.
If magic items are rare, then identifying their traits or recalling information about them should also be more difficult. Consider raising the level of Identify and Analyze Dweomer, and add +5 to all DCs for identifying or recalling magical properties. Do the same for the magical abilities of creatures; they are (or should be) less commonly encountered, after all.
In a world where magic items are truly rare they will be both expensive and reserved for nobility - if not royalty. Much like some parts of Europe forbid peasants and freemen from owning (war) horses, permanent magic items may be forbidden to non-nobles. On the other hand, if magic items are rare and the setting is low magic, without obvious signs of magic the local mage should not be thinking to cast 'detect magic' at every adventurer who enters the city. Granted, for security purposes I can see the local court wizard being required to cast such before adventurers who come before the king.
In a low magic world, those that can wield magic will have a stronger reputation than those who cannot. A low level wizard or sorcerer may be as well known as a mid level fighter or rogue. A priest who can actually heal (whether cleric, cloistered cleric, adept, or paladin) will be famed over a greater distance than a similarly leveled fighter. Also, if magic is rare people are likely to have a stronger reaction to it, both good and bad. If their is suspicion or distrust toward magic, then those who practice such may be treated as if they were one step closer to evil than they actually are, and vice versa. In a land where magic is viewed as a gift from the gods, even a lower level sorcerer may be viewed as a living saint (although of which deity may be debated).
In a land where the secrets to constructing permanent magic items are no longer known, any such item found will be viewed with wonder and possibly considered a minor artifact, and many might be considered to be gifts or creations of the gods. The belt that grants +4 Strength to any who wear it is likely located in a sacred vault of the temple devoted to the local deity of strength. The sword that ever burns (flaming burst) is likely displayed upon a pillar surrounded by temple guards in the temple devoted to the deity of fire, a sacred relic (whether divine or arcane in actual origin) believed to have once been wielded by their god. A ring that grants a continuous Zone of Truth is likely only worn by the highest ranking priest of the deity associated with oaths, law, truth, etc. The +2 keen sword is likely the personal sword of a king or duke. The fire resistant shield is likely in the vault of a duke and considered the personal shield of their heroic ancestor who faced a dragon. Any permanent magic item is likely to have a story behind it, so while the properties of an unrecognized magic item may be hard to determine, once its name is known the DCs for knowing its (legendary, perhaps not actual) properties should be no higher than normal - at least for bardic knowledge and the like.
Last edited by Nyeshet; Sunday, 23rd September, 2012 at 05:06 PM.
Monday, 24th September, 2012, 07:13 AM #18
Enchanter (Lvl 12)
For the last few years, I've been running a campaign set during the Hyborian Age using the CONAN RPG rules. I've posted about it a bit in this forum.
Some would argue that Conan's universe is high fantasy, and in some ways, highly magical, too. What it is, though, is a sub-genre of fantasy called Sword & Sorcery.
You could use it as a semi-model for your game, picking and choosing what you like.
In the Conan RPG, sorcery is extremely rare. Most people go their entire lives without seeing magic first hand. Though, they know it exists. They do. Because there are whispers about it. There are stories that frighten children and keep adults from wandering too far from home.
Then, there's the priests. Some of these men of the gods have amazing abilities, but people don't look at most of these acts as examples of sorcery. No, they're miracles!
In my Conan game, I keep the players' exposure to magic very limited. Since I don't have a sorcerer in our group, it's only the bad guys who have magic--and that's only some of the time.
There are no magical weapons. The PCs all have various qualities of normal weapons. Well, that's not exactly true. There are some magical weapons, but these are more like D&D relics. I should say that there are no mundane magical weapons. In D&D terms, this means that all the +1 and +3 swords are gone. Only the Holy Avengers and the like remain in the game world--and these are typically the object of campains. And even if/when a magical weapon is obtained, not every PC in the group will have one. Most likely, there will only be one magical item. Period.
When I convert a D&D adventure for my Conan campaign, I strip out all the high fantasy stuff. I typically like low level D&D adventures because these have less sophisticated magical encounters in them. Gone are the Gelatinous Cubes and Rust Monsters. Gone are the demi humans (I usually turn those into different races of humans). Gone of the Magic Mouths and magical traps. And so forth.
I'd probably keep a Wyvern, or a Giant Spider, but even then, I'd keep these encounters sparse. My PCs won't move from fantastic animal to fantastic monster every hour of their overland trip. In the last adventure that I converted, I took a black dragon and turned him into a demon--just by describing him differently and slightly changing his abilities. I pretty much used the same stats, though. If you like, you can read about the choices I made for conversion HERE.
PC mages (sorcerers in the Conan game) are tricky. To play them true to the universe, there should either be no PC mages, or the PC mage should dominate the campaign's "story". Magic (sorcery) is rare, and those who know how to wield it are special (sorcerers). There are no run-of-the-mill D&D mage types, and certainly you won't find a socerer in every town as is usually possible in most D&D fantasy universes.
In a way, the low-magic universe is like Lord of the Rings. Who used magic in that story? That would be Gandalf and a few, very powerful, others (mostly foes). The same is true in the various Conan stories. Sorcery exists, but it's ancient and dark and cryptic, gritty and unnatural. Most people shun away from sorcerery.
In the Conan game, a character must make a Fear Save (called Terror of the Unknown) EVERY TIME he sees an unnatural creature for the first time. This is because unnatural things are rare. You wouldn't have to make the Terror save the first time you saw a pack of wolves, even if they're about to eat you alive. But, you would have to make the save if the man you have just slain begins to wiggle, then stands back up to fight you again. And, you'd have to make the save if you saw a skeleton digging its way out of its grave. If you saw something like a Wyvern flying through the sky, you'd have to make the save.
That's very un-D&D-like, and it goes to support the low-magic feel of the Conan game universe. You might consider something similar for your game.
You can still let your players find goodies. Just don't allow it so often. Make them work harder for what they find. Keep wealth rewards low. And, never let them find magic unless it is the object of their quest.
If you're stingy with rewards, the players will greatly appreciate a set of chain mail when they finally find some.
In the Conan game, weapons have more important statistics other than damage. They have armor piercing ratings as well. So, in your game, a long sword doesn't have to be a long sword, the same as that other long sword. Give a bonus to its Critical Threat Range. Allow a +1 attack (only) if it is very balanced. Have long swords with different, but similar damage ratings (1d8, 1d6+1, 1d4+2 are ideas). Introduce weapons made of different materials. The best are made of steel, but there are also iron and bronze weapons. Make some weapons and armor "exotic" in some areas and "martial" in others. Give primitives primitive quality weapons.
I think this route is much more interesting than +1, +2, and +3 longswords, anyway.
Healing might be a problem in your game if there are no potions of healing and no magical spells. Consider healing surges or fast recovery of hit points after a fight (say...maybe a number of hit points equal to the character's level plus CON bonus is returned to the character within 30 minutes of the fight).
In the Conan game, there is a Short Term Care option under the Heal skill. A DC 15 Heal check, using this option, basicaly simulates the cleaning and binding of wounds after a battle. A successful check returns a number of hit point to the injured character equal to the Character's Level + CON modifier, to a minimum of one.
And, this can be performed once after every combat engagement. It's like drinking a potion of healing or having a priest lay Cure Light Wounds on you once per combat engagement.
In additon, natural healing is increased. If you sleep for 8 hours, you get 3 + Character Level + CON mod hit points returned. If you do nothing but heal for an entire 24 hours, you get double that amount. If you've got a doctor/nurse/healer person to take care of the injured, then that person can use the Long Term Care option of the Heal skill to yet again double the amount of hit points returned to the character (Thus, it's possible for a character to regain 4x the recovery points in a 24 hour period.).
And then there are little helpers, like herbal concoctions (Acadia seeds, smashed into a paste, return 1d4 hit points) and skill bonus items (Healer's Kit, Herbalist Kit, Triage Kit, Healer's Balm, Healer's Pitch, and so on). All of this is non-magical.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea: Watch your rewards, watch your monster foes; watch your magic. Substitute with more mundane things when needed.
Hope that helps!
Monday, 24th September, 2012, 09:18 AM #19
Myrmidon (Lvl 10)
I'm surprised one analogy hasn't popped up in this thread yet:
"Magic, if sufficiently advanced, is indistinguishable from technology"
(or was it the other way round? Does it matter?)
Anyway, think about your campaign's magic level the same as you would think about the campaign's tech level. Does long-range communication exist? Do really fast travel options exist? Is there combat tech that does more damage (or has other effects) than can be achieved by muscle power alone? What about the campaign's medical technology (read: magical healing available)? Etc. Just decide what you want available, and be sure that your choices will have a huge impact on the way the game plays out. For example, when I play Shadowrun, what makes a difference from standard D&D is less the automatic weapons and more the instant communication that's possible between everybody in the game world.
The next set of questions regards the 'who has access to what' side of the matter. For example, the European Middle Ages saw highly restricted access to some of the era's 'high tech': only the rich could afford doctors, soothsayers, alchemists; only nobles could ride into battle and wear good armor. Some other 'high tech' options were available to large numbers of people: the best missile weapons were considered peasant's weapons, so armies were (potentially) chock full of them. The church's 'miracles' had mass appeal, and restricting them to nobles, for instance, was basically impossible (although usually, only nobles and rich institutions owned saint's relics...).
Today, almost every kind of high tech that's useful on a personal basis is available to more or less everybody: fast transportation, communication, medicine, in some countries even weapons of rather great destructive power.
So where do you want your campaign to fall in the tech curve, and in the 'availability of tech' curve? That will determine your stance on magic, as well.
Monday, 24th September, 2012, 10:09 AM #20
Guide (Lvl 11)
* Clerics are now Favored Souls with spontaneous healing and turn Undead ability (Cloistered Cleric option from UA available but caster progression remains the same)
* Wizards are now Sorcerers (War Wizard option from UA available)
* Druids get shapeshift (one 'creature' per size category/type only) or animal companion, not both, and Natural Spell is not available
* Bards now choose their spell selection from the Druid spell list, not Bard.
That should cut down most abuse. Probably.
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