D&D 4E Introducing Orcus -- a 4E retroclone

Sanglorian

Explorer
Last year, I launched a 4E retroclone called Orcus. I've posted about it in a few other places, but never shared it here -- which I wanted to correct now.

I'm very open to contributions from others, whether that's homebrew material you've created or proposing balance/gameplay fixes to the material that's already here. Would love to know what you think of it.

The intention is to stay true to the core rules of the source material as much as possible, as I've seen other retroclones derailed by trying to "fix" the original game.

You can view all the files as a website on Github Pages.
 

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Sanglorian

Explorer
Hi folks,

Another big update. This is now version 0.6 -- all of the main files have been updated. See the Pages site for all downloads and webpages.

  • There is now a character sheet, in Excel spreadsheet format. It does some calculations for you, and prints out on one page. You'd want to print power cards separately.
  • Shorter Section 15: I know a pain point has been the huge Section 15 in the Open Game License. I have reworked the Rulebook section to have all the core rules, and a much shorter (though still hefty) Section 15. That way, people who are creating fresh content or spin-off games can use the shorter Rulebook Section 15. Those using the classes, monsters, powers, feats, bonds, magic items, etc., will still have to use the full Section 15.
  • All content has been read-through and tweaked.
  • New content: Includes a new discipline for the Harlequin, a new discipline for the Reaper, new poisons (consumable items), new kits (Brews Poisons and Eats Monster Hearts), rules for buying hirelings and mounts, expanding the incantation rules to include non-magical practices as well, vehicle rules and a handful of new vehicles, ancestry rules (moved from the Outlaw Kingdoms separate document into the main SRD).
  • Class changes: The Jester has become the Harlequin, and gotten a total rework of its class features since they previously weren't very controllery. The Swashbuckler has become the Exemplar to represent a broader archetype (e.g. gladiators). The Guard became the Guardian because it sounded a bit grander.
  • Archetypes: I'm quite proud of the examples of how you could model fantasy archetypes in Orcus. Everything from assassins who brew their own poisons, demonologists, lazylords, enchanters, mounted knights (with a horse that keeps pace with power levels), blue mages, martial artists, psionicists and archers are covered, among many others.

The next update will be two printable PDFs, the Hero's Handbook and the Game Master's Guide, which collate everything in the one place (well, two places) for easy printing and reference at the game table. That will be the "playtest edition", and mark the end of any major changes for some time.
 


JarooAshstaff

Explorer
One other thing that I was confused by, I looked to see what kind of license stuff you had, and it listed almost every games name, from 13th age to enworld publishing, that seems just strange, you can't possibly be borrowing from all those sources, and that just makes it ambiguous as to the legality of the SRD for anything more than casual personal fun.

 

Sanglorian

Explorer
One other thing that I was confused by, I looked to see what kind of license stuff you had, and it listed almost every games name, from 13th age to enworld publishing, that seems just strange, you can't possibly be borrowing from all those sources, and that just makes it ambiguous as to the legality of the SRD for anything more than casual personal fun.

Everything listed in Section 15 is either a source, or appears in the Section 15 of a source. Most of the sources are for the game content - the classes, powers, monsters, feats and so on - rather than the core rules.
 

MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen but not a munchkin
Hi.

I've seen your clone. It looks good, though I haven't been able to find the magician class despite being mentioned a few times.
 
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WaffleSyrup

Villager
Reading through the rulebook and I have some questions.

Underneath "Using Your Ability Scores", it states to add "the higher of your [Ability Score A] modifier and your [Ability Score B] modifier to your [Fortitude/Reflex/Will] defense." What does it mean by the "higher?" Do you choose which ability score to use depending on which one is the highest, or do you use both to calculate those defenses?

Also, underneath "Will," I think there's a typo?

Add the higher of your Wisdom modifier and your Charisma modifier to your Reflex defense.
 

Sanglorian

Explorer
Reading through the rulebook and I have some questions.

Underneath "Using Your Ability Scores", it states to add "the higher of your [Ability Score A] modifier and your [Ability Score B] modifier to your [Fortitude/Reflex/Will] defense." What does it mean by the "higher?" Do you choose which ability score to use depending on which one is the highest, or do you use both to calculate those defenses?

Also, underneath "Will," I think there's a typo?
Thanks for your questions.

It means the former: if you have a Constitution modifier of +3 and a Strength modifier of +2, you add +3 to your Fortitude defense.

Good catch on the typo -- I'll correct in the next version.
 

jeffh

Adventurer
Underneath "Using Your Ability Scores", it states to add "the higher of your [Ability Score A] modifier and your [Ability Score B] modifier to your [Fortitude/Reflex/Will] defense." What does it mean by the "higher?" Do you choose which ability score to use depending on which one is the highest, or do you use both to calculate those defenses?
I'm always curious when people find stuff like this confusing, as it's always good to have clearer ways of conveying this kind of information when writing rules. Writing these somewhat mathematical bits has a lot of pitfalls. A wording that is completely clear to me will often just confuse my more math-phobic friends, while wordings that they actually find helpful often strike me as ambiguous or incomplete. (Maybe they give a clear answer 98% of the time but the 2% where they don't really bothers me.) So I hope you'll indulge me in asking a few questions.

(It is quite possible I'm massively overthinking this, all my questions have the same obvious-once-you-see-it answer, and this is a lot simpler than it looks to me. That would be kind of nice, actually!)
  • I'm a bit unclear on what the source of confusion was here. If you can articulate it, what made this wording confusing to you? (I know, I know, "why are you confused about _______" can be a difficult and even aggressive-sounding question. To be able to answer that question would, in some cases, require being no longer confused! If it's hard to say, it's hard to say.)
  • What, to you, would be a clearer way to say the same thing?
  • What made you think it might mean you used both scores? (And, used them how, exactly)?
  • You yourself used the word "higher" in the first (correct) one of your two options. To me this makes your question seem almost the same as "does 'higher' mean 'higher'?". Obviously, to you it didn't seem that way, or you wouldn't have asked! What makes the two "higher"s seem to you like they might mean different things?
I hope this comes off as genuine curiosity and desire to improve my own explanations, and not as badgering. That's an awful lot of text for such a small point! I'm somewhat sorry about that :giggle:.
 

WaffleSyrup

Villager
I'm always curious when people find stuff like this confusing, as it's always good to have clearer ways of conveying this kind of information when writing rules. Writing these somewhat mathematical bits has a lot of pitfalls. A wording that is completely clear to me will often just confuse my more math-phobic friends, while wordings that they actually find helpful often strike me as ambiguous or incomplete. (Maybe they give a clear answer 98% of the time but the 2% where they don't really bothers me.) So I hope you'll indulge me in asking a few questions.

(It is quite possible I'm massively overthinking this, all my questions have the same obvious-once-you-see-it answer, and this is a lot simpler than it looks to me. That would be kind of nice, actually!)
  • I'm a bit unclear on what the source of confusion was here. If you can articulate it, what made this wording confusing to you? (I know, I know, "why are you confused about _______" can be a difficult and even aggressive-sounding question. To be able to answer that question would, in some cases, require being no longer confused! If it's hard to say, it's hard to say.)
  • What, to you, would be a clearer way to say the same thing?
  • What made you think it might mean you used both scores? (And, used them how, exactly)?
  • You yourself used the word "higher" in the first (correct) one of your two options. To me this makes your question seem almost the same as "does 'higher' mean 'higher'?". Obviously, to you it didn't seem that way, or you wouldn't have asked! What makes the two "higher"s seem to you like they might mean different things?
I hope this comes off as genuine curiosity and desire to improve my own explanations, and not as badgering. That's an awful lot of text for such a small point! I'm somewhat sorry about that :giggle:.
And / Or

And implies that you use both, whereas or implies that you use either of the two listed ability scores.

For instance, "add the higher of your Dexterity modifier or your Intelligence modifier to your Reflex defense" makes a clearer distinction as to the ability score your supposed to add, versus "add the higher of your Dexterity modifier and your Intelligence modifier to your Reflex defense," which somewhat implies (at least to me) that your supposed to use both modifiers. The "higher" qualifier does help to differentiate which modifier is supposed to be used, but the "and" kinda muddies that.

I hope you find my answer satisfying.
 
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jeffh

Adventurer
Ah, that would indeed be the "I'm overthinking this and it's actually quite simple" possibility.

Just to clarify where I'm coming from, to me "The higher" is a very strong indicator that we're looking for exactly one thing ("The"), namely the largest member ("higher") of some set (almost certainly with two elements or it would say "highest"), that's about to be enumerated. For this reason I completely overlooked which connective was used later. "Or" would indeed be clearer, as well as sounding slightly better, at least to my ear. But to me that was so completely dwarfed by "The higher" that it didn't even register.

Thanks!
 

WaffleSyrup

Villager
The next update will be two printable PDFs, the Hero's Handbook and the Game Master's Guide, which collate everything in the one place (well, two places) for easy printing and reference at the game table. That will be the "playtest edition", and mark the end of any major changes for some time.
So considering this chart from the Classes and Powers page:

ControllerDefenderLeaderStriker
ArcaneMagicianMageblade
DivineCrusader
MartialHarlequinGuardianCommanderExemplar
SpiritReaperSylvan

do you have any plans on filling out the blanks in the next update / updates beyond the next update, or do you intend on leaving it as is as design space for content creators?

Furthermore, considering how phrenic is listed as a power source but isn't the source of any current classes, do you plan on adding phrenic classes in the future?
 

Sanglorian

Explorer
So considering this chart from the Classes and Powers page:

ControllerDefenderLeaderStriker
ArcaneMagicianMageblade
DivineCrusader
MartialHarlequinGuardianCommanderExemplar
SpiritReaperSylvan

do you have any plans on filling out the blanks in the next update / updates beyond the next update, or do you intend on leaving it as is as design space for content creators?

Furthermore, considering how phrenic is listed as a power source but isn't the source of any current classes, do you plan on adding phrenic classes in the future?
Good question. I'm not planning to make any new content ... although occasionally I do anyway as the mood takes me. I do have a phrenic controller that I may polish off -- or may not.

But it's basically all left for other content creators to play with. The phrenic stuff is actually only there because it appeared as Open Game Content in existing publications!
 

WaffleSyrup

Villager
I do have a phrenic controller that I may polish off -- or may not.
That sounds really cool! I hope you do find a way to finish it. I think it'd make a great jumping off point for hombrewers looking to make their own phrenic classes, but it also just sounds like it'd make an awesome addition to the current class roster
The phrenic stuff is actually only there because it appeared as Open Game Content in existing publications!
Oh, cool! I did not know that, that's rather interesting.
But it's basically all left for other content creators to play with.
Bet.
Thank you so much for the quick answer, Sanglorian! You're doing great work, and I'm loving everything I've read so far. Can't wait to give Orcus a go in my own games!
 

Sanglorian

Explorer
Hey folks --

I've completed the formatted/print version of Orcus, which involves two 150+ page books: the Hero's Handbook and the Game Master's Guide.

Before the big launch I wanted to get some feedback, to pick up typos or other problems. If you'd be interested in getting early PDF copies, please send an email to sanglorian@gmail.com

You'd have at least a couple of weeks to read through them and come back with any thoughts you had, probably more like a month.
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