Saturday, September 29, 2018

Capt. Isledemer d'Alberran

             Now that skyship spells have been described in detail and general skills improved, I present you with detailed stats for the captain of the Star Phoenix, developed for D&D BECMI game mechanics. There were personal interpretations on my part, since I started from the original Pathfinder material published in CAL1 “In Stranger Skies.” Ideally, I’d like to see all this translated into D&D 5th edition—alas, I’m not familiar with this new system. Any volunteers among the Calidar fans, do let me know!
             Unlike the official D&D game, Calidar’s system-neutral stats differentiate between Body Agility (Agt) and Manual Dexterity (Dex). Dexterity affects hand-eye coordination and therefore ranged weapon bonuses and precise actions like disarming traps. Agility governs Armor Class bonuses and movement-related feats like climbing, dodging, or horse riding. These stats are listed according to the original intent, but they can be combined as a single Dex score for simplicity (if in doubt, use the best score).
             Calidar books commonly describe NPCs as multi-classed. Isledemer is both a fighter and a magic-user. Since Basic D&D mechanics don’t lend themselves to multi-classing, assume the character splits gained XPs between the two experience progression tables. 
             Finally, Calidar wands produce protective magic used to parry direct attacks (either physical or magical). These wands' primary purpose is otherwise to help with spellcasting; they don't generate specific magical effects. Click here for details on this approach.

Digital Art / Drawings & Paintings / Fantasy ©2013-2018 ElifSiebenpfeiffer.

Skyship Captain: AC 3 (unarmored), Lvl 12 swashbuckler/sorcerer, hp 40, MV 120’ (40’), AT 1 spell or 1 rapier +2 (left hand, expert skill) and 1 personal wand +2 (right hand, parry only), Dmg by spell or 2d8+2 rapier, Size M—Str 13, Dex 16 (Agt 16/Dex 11), Con 14, Int 17, Wis 13, Cha 15, ML 10, Saves as fighter, AL Neutral (or “Neutral Good” in other game versions). Faith: none established. Credentials: none. Apparent Age: 30s. Ancestry: human; unknown origins.

These stats were updated Oct 10 (in red). Mea culpa. I was using the wrong conversion chart. Those listed in CAL1 "In Stranger SKies" had been altered to work with Pathfinder as best as I can figure. The ones above come from my original 2013 draft. I had to dig around for that.

Abilities: 
             Spellcasting—L1 x4, L2 x4, L3 x4, L4 x3, L5 x2, L6 x1
             General Skills—Set #1 Airship Commander incl. Aerial Navigation (Int), Leadership (Cha), Piloting (Dex), Skyship/Magical Engineering (Int), Skyship Tactics (Wis), and Weather Sense (Wis); Set #2 Swashbuckler –2 incl. Acrobatics (Agt), Alertness (Agt), Bravery (Wis), and Quick Draw (Dex—esp. his magical wand); Individual Skills incl. Alternate Magic (Int), Court Etiquette (Cha), and Horse Riding (Agt). 
             Weapon Proficiencies—two-handed combat (wand/rapier as an expert) and basic proficiency with daggers and light crossbows. Commander’s Rating—(16) Expert (see Skyship Saving Throws).

Equipment: Personal wand +2, rapier +2, ring of protection +1, hat of defense AC 6 (if lost, it reappears at his feet later on), boots of equilibrium (+3 bonus to Agility), two-way scroll of communication, potion of healing.

Spellbook: L1Analyze, Structural Appraisal, Booming Voice, Detect Magic, Find the Wind, Hold Portal, Light*, Magic Missile, Protection from Evil, Protection from Rot, Protection from Rust, Read Languages, Read Magic, Sleep, Triangulate, Ventriloquism.
             L2Captain’s Jinx, Continual Light*, Detect Evil, Detect Invisible, Helmsman’s Glory, Helmsman Helping Hand, Invisibility, Knock, Local Object, Phantasmal Force, Phantasmally Displayed Figments, Restore Wood, Sky Sight, Web, Wizard Lock.
             L3Air Anchor, Artificer’s Mending Brace, Create Air, Dispel Magic, Fireball, Fly, Hold Person, Protection from Normal Missiles, Smother Conflagration, Unyielding Cord, Wizard’s Tail.
             L4Artificer’s Unseen Shield, Clothform, Dimension Door II, Remove Curse, Cloudscreen (see below), Wizard Eye.
             L5Captain’s Instant Skiff, Contact Outer Plane, Dissolve, Hold Monster, Spectral Sail.
             L6Artificer’s Hold Distortion, Invisible Stalker, Projected Image.

Cloudscreen*
Spell Level 4: (School of Invocation)
Range: Own vessel
Duration: 1 hour + 1 Turn per experience level
Effects: Produces a large cloud

             Captain d’Alberran created this spell as a way to mask his skyship from view. The invocation brings into being a large, opaque cloud or a fog bank about twice the size of the Star Phoenix. From the inside, it appears merely as a fine mist. The dweomer travels with the ship, regardless of atmospheric conditions. It is indistinguishable from natural clouds when moving along with them at prevailing wind speed. The effect may end when dismissed by the caster or dispelled. The reversed version of the spell clears all clouds, vapors, fog, smoke, and dust within a 500 yard radius.

Swashbuckler Heroes
             Although not entirely within the bounds of laws or chivalric codes, these romantic heroes generally focus on matters of honor, justice, and courage with a flair. In addition to a set of related skills offered earlier (click here for details), a swashbuckler hero living aboard a skyship should enjoy the following benefits:
  • ·      Sword fighting without penalty on a rolling/pitching deck
  • ·      +1 Bonus to hit when fighting with a rapier
  • ·      Immunity to fear of heights (click here for details) and air sickness
             On the other hand, such a hero does not typically wear protection beyond leather armor; magic items other than armor are otherwise acceptable. Therefore, shields, helmets, chainmail, and plate armor are not acceptable items.



Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Revisiting BECMI Skills

           During my attempt to translate into D&D BECMI game terms the stats of the crew serving on Calidar’s Star Phoenix, it occurred to me that the present system remains pretty limited. It is on a par with the intent of the original rules: to remain as simple and straightforward as possible, in keeping with the nature of D&D’s red box. Though I do appreciate the latter’s intrinsic value, I had to come up with optional mechanics to depict characters whose skills exceed what can be expressed in Basic D&D terms without breaking established rules. I’m referring in particular to the general skills described in the D&D Rules Cyclopedia, pages 81-86.
           Before delving into the thick of this article, I should point out the curious absence of guidelines on how to handle the “lack” of a skill. My assumption is that attempting to complete an action without possessing the corresponding skill either: 1. Fails automatically or, 2. Sustains a 50% handicap to the parent ability score at the DM’s discretion. A critical success (rolling a “1”) should still be allowed for the sake of pure, dumb luck, wild guesses, stupefying inspiration, or instants of freakish genius, cuz you know, if you give typewriters to a thousand monkeys, one of them may come up with a Shakespearian quote, right? I wonder if that'd work with trolls... nah. A critical failure (rolling a “20”) always fails, even though the hapless recipient might not realize it at first if the roll was a secret one

Top Illustration: Kerem Beyit ©2004-2008.

The Goal
           My biggest issue concerned specialists and characters with extensive professional backgrounds. As can be anticipated, the basic rules would be at a loss to depict someone like the seasoned captain of a skyship, someone like… you guessed it: Captain Isledemer d’Alberran. Approaches that I saw elsewhere crossed my mind (kudos to game designers who first came up with the idea), consisting in sets of specialized skills as opposed to totally unrelated skills—see “Beginning Skills” on page 81 and “Learning More Skills” on page 86.
           The present system calls for 4 skill slots at level 1 plus Intelligence bonuses, for a maximum of 7 skills. By the book, a seasoned skyship captain at 12th level of experience like Isledemer d’Alberran would therefore have a grand total of 8 general skills. It’s not enough. (Note: I will post his complete stats for D&D BECMI in the next articleclick here.)

A Solution
           Sets of professional aptitudes regrouping multiple related skills should become an option. The idea is to allow more skill slots, but with built-in penalties that are less severe than halving parent ability scores or automatic failures. Any single set of related skills can be acquired at the cost of 1 single slot. A set’s built-in penalty can then be reduced by 1 point the at the cost of another skill slot. The chart below illustrates the different aptitude sets. Skills can still be acquired individually, “à la carte,” which then incur no penalties.

Professional Aptitudes Sets

Number of Skills
Aptitude Sets
Limited
Skill Slot Cost:........................................ 1
Number of Skills:.................................... 4
Skill Check Penalty:............................... –2
Moderate
Skill Slot Cost:........................................ 1
Number of Skills:.................................... 6
Skill Check Penalty:............................... –3
Extensive
Skill Slot Cost:........................................ 1
Number of Skills:.................................... 8
Skill Check Penalty:............................... –4

           Based on the above numbers, the Limited set provides 4 related skills at the cost of 1 slot, all incurring a –2 penalty. Fully eliminating this set’s penalty would only cost another 2 slots. Therefore, at a total cost of 3 slots a Limited set can provide 4 skills without penalty. Essentially, after negating built-in penalties, the Limited set yields a free skill, two for the moderate set, or three for the extensive set. It’s the advantage of learning “job-related” skills versus totally unrelated ones. Earning extra skills with built-in penalties gives more flexibility when developing a character with few slots available, while it reinforces the logic of concentrating on the character’s key background. This option can be applied without altering any of the Rules Cyclopedia’s existing mechanics. As a final recommendation, once penalties have been eliminated from an entire set, further skill improvements should be handled individually, as the established game mechanics suggest.

Update: 9/27/18The 3 categories (Limited/Moderate/Extensive) aren't meant to imply "experience" but instead to define the number of initial skills, hence the increasing built-in penalty. Actual experience comes from additional slots spent to reduce or eliminate built-in penalties.  

Listing Skills
          Here’s an example of how a skyship’s captain’s with 8 skill slots may be described: General Skills—Set #1 Airship Commander incl. Aerial Navigation (Int), Leadership (Cha), Piloting (Dex), Skyship/Magical Engineering (Int), Skyship Tactics (Wis), and Weather Sense (Wis); Set #2 Swashbuckler –2 incl. Acrobatics (Dex), Alertness (Dex), Bravery (Wis), and Quick Draw (Dex); Individual Skills incl. Alternate Magic (Int), Court Etiquette (Cha), and Horse Riding (Dex).
           The above shows one moderate set listed without a penalty (cost: 4 slots), followed by a Limited set listed with a –2 penalty (cost: 1 slot), plus another 3 individual skills—total cost: 8 slots. Should any of the individual or airship commander skills receive an improvement, add the bonus after the ability, such as: Aerial Navigation (Int +1).

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Examples of Aptitude Sets

Airship Commander
Limited: Aerial Navigation, Leadership, Skyship Tactics, Weather Sense
Moderate: add Piloting + Skyship/Magical Engineering
Extensive: add Deck Weapons + Skyship Lore

Ambassador
Limited: Court Etiquette, Persuasion, Basic History/Geography, Local Politics
Moderate: add Foreign Literature + Law & Justice
Extensive: add Detect Deception + Forgery

Bard
Limited: Musical Instrument, Poetry, Singing, Storytelling
Moderate: Compose Music + a second musical instrument
Extensive: Oration + a third musical instrument

Gambler
Limited: Gambling +2*, Persuasion
Moderate: add Cheating + Deceiving
Extensive: add Alertness + Escape 
(*) Gambling comes with a built-in +2 bonus, eliminating two other skills.

Horseman
Limited: Horse Riding, Horse Breeding, Horse Care & Training, Cavalry Tactics
Moderate: add Bargaining + Intimidation
Extensive: add Detect Deception + Leadership

Linguist (or Ambassador Set #2)
Limited: 4 additional languages*, conversational
Moderate: add another 2**, read & write all
Extensive: add another 2***
(*) from local or neighboring cultures, (**) from exotic cultures at the DM’s discretion, (***) of monstrous origins at the DM’s discretion.

Merchant
Limited: Accounting, Appraisal, Bargaining, Knowledge (a type of merchandise**)
Moderate: add Trade* + Knowledge (a 2nd type of merchandise)
Extensive: add Detect Deception + Knowledge (a 3rd type of merchandise)
(*) Understanding the values of currencies and services, local and foreign; 
(**) Types of merchandise include precious metals & gems, items of art, livestock, raw goods (oil, wine, flour, wool, hides, timber, etc.), finished goods (textiles, furniture, leather goods, man-made objects other than artwork, etc.), banking/lending, and real estate.

Outdoorsman
Limited: Hunting/Fishing, Outdoor Survival, Snares, Tracking*
Moderate: add Endurance + Fire Building
Extensive: add Mountaineering + Nature Lore
(*) If this is kit is used for a character that has Tracking as a class ability, replace with Mimicry.

Palace Courtier/Courtisan
Limited: Court Etiquette, Dancing, Elegance, Calligraphy or a Limited Bard skill
Moderate: add Persuasion + Verbal Joust
Extensive: add Detect Deception + Gambling

Spy
Limited: Disguise, Mimicry, Tracking, Stealth (Urban)
Moderate: add Deception + Persuasion
Extensive: add Knowledge of Poisons + Lip Reading

Swashbuckler
Limited: Acrobatics, Alertness, Bravery, Quick Draw
Moderate: add Acting + Bargaining
Extensive: add Detect Deception + Gambling

Tomb Raider
Limited: Blind Shooting, Caving, Mapping/Cartography, Muscle
Moderate: add Knowledge of Undead + Signaling
Extensive: add Danger Sense + Ancient Tombs Lore

Tribal Shaman
Limited: Ceremony, Healing, Mysticism, Nature Lore
Moderate: add Storytelling + Persuasion
Extensive: add Astrology* + Intuition
(*) Includes knowledge of seasons, moon cycles, stars.

Many of the above kits presume that characters know how to read and write. If this isn't the case (barbarians, peasants, etc.), give the character a free skill slot. DMs can create any number of variations as best fits their games and what their players want. Easy!


Saturday, September 22, 2018

Skyship Spells IX

             Welcome to the next 4 D&D BECMI spells. A complete index of skyship spells with links to their pages is listed at the end of this article:

1. Artificer's Range Distortion*
2. Artificer's Blinding Flare 
3. Artificer's Skyship Lure
4. Protection from Lightning

             Comments and suggestions are helpful to address loopholes and other design clunkers. Click here for the previous three spells.

Thanks!

Artificer’s Range Distortion*
Spell Level: 2 (School of Illusion)
Range: Own vessel
Duration: 1 hour per experience level
Effect: Makes a skyship look farther than it really is

                If the spell was cast before the affected skyship is first sighted, this vessel appears farther away than it actually is (no save). The caster’s experience determines how far away the recipient may appear, up to 100 yards plus 100 per experience level. The effect is dismissed at the caster’s discretion or if any attack is initiated from the recipient (q.v. invisibility spell). The actual ranges of weapons and spells cast from any of the involved vessels aren’t affected, though the victims’ range penalties to hit remain unchanged since they are based on perception. If it actually hits, an attack that should have reasonably fallen short due to the illusory range will dispel the recipient’s distortion effect. A spyglass or some other device enabling a closer look will not dispel the effect. This spell is reversible, causing the recipient to appear a lot closer than it actually is

Top Illustration: Lightning Airship by musegames
Digital Art/Drawings & Paintings/Illustrations/Conceptual©2011-2018 musegames.

Artificer’s Blinding Flare
Spell Level: 3 (School of Invocation)
Range: 100 yards +10 per experience level
Duration: Instantaneous
Effect: Create a large flash of light

                When cast at night, this ball of light is powerful enough to temporarily blind all who fail to shield their eyes. The spell has no effect in broad daylight. The primary area of effect is a sphere with a radius equal to half the spell’s range, centered at the point of impact. All victims within the primary area of effect must save vs. spells to avoid blindness (one collective saving throw per skyship is recommended—click here for details on skyship saving throws). Victims outside the primary area of effect receive a +1 bonus to their saving throws for every extra 100 yards radius. Blindness lasts 5 rounds +1 for every 6 experience levels of the caster; the effect can otherwise be negated individually (for those within a dispel magic’s area of effect). Reduce the duration for every extra 100 yards radius beyond the primary area of effect (1 round minimum). If the spell is cast at dusk or dawn, add a +2 bonus to saving throws and halve the effect’s basic duration. If cast during a moonless night (i.e. in pitch-black darkness, all lanterns doused), include a –2 penalty. (This spell is featured in the upcoming story introducing CAL2 On Wings of Darkness, June 2019.)

Artificer’s Skyship Lure
Spell Level: 1 (School of Illusion)
Range: 100 yards +100 per experience level
Duration: 1 hour per experience level
Effect: Create far away ship silhouettes

                This illusion can be cast at a vessel within spell range. The target is allowed a saving throw vs. spells (one single collective roll—click here for details on skyship saves.) The spell produces a small, barely identifiable skyship silhouette fading into view, at the limit of a victim’s sight range. The silhouette can be that of any vessel the caster has observed in the past. An additional silhouette can be duplicated for every 3 experience levels of the caster, behaving exactly like the first. Though these silhouettes are typically motionless, a high level caster may animate the illusions. At 9th level and above, the caster may change their bearings and make them appear to approach the victim’s vessel, or turn back and fade away in the distance. If the spell is cast at night, ship lanterns can simulate the presence of faraway skyships or mimic the gleam of an illusory lighthouse. A dispel magic cast upon any single victim will dismiss any and all of these illusions.

Protection from Lightning
Spell Level 1: (School of Abjuration)
Range: Own vessel
Duration: 1 hour + 1 Turn per experience level
Effects: Protects vessel and crew from lightning bolts

                When under this protection, a skyship and its crew are immune to non-magical lightning, such as those commonly encountered in a storm. These bolts are deflected, missing the vessel entirely. A protected skyship sustains half damage from magical lightning bolts, or a quarter if the vessel succeeds its saving throw vs. spells (click here for details on skyship saves.)
                The caster’s level determines how large a skyship can be protected. The spell affects vessels whose hull length fit within 30’ + 10’ per experience level above the first. So a 7th level sorcerer could affect a skyship up to 90’ long, including all its protruding masts. This spell was created by gnomish spellcasters to protect dwarven ironclads. A rare spell on Calidar, its original script requires skill in ancient gnomish in addition to being able to decipher magic. Ancient gnomish does not translate well into other arcane languages. Translated spells can malfunction—odds: 30% chance minus the caster’s Intelligence bonus times 5. Detecting magic is needed to verify whether the protection failed.

Skyship Spells Index
Spell Name
Level
School
Artificer’s Skyship’s Lure
1
Illusion
1
Alteration
1
Divination
Protection from Lightning
1
Abjuration
1
Abjuration
1
Abjuration
1
Divination
1
Divination
Artificer’s Range Distortion
2
Illusion
2
Illusion
2
Alteration
2
Invocation
2
Illusion
2
Alteration
2
Divination
3
Invocation
Artificer’s Blinding Flare
3
Invocation
3
Abjuration/Alteration
3
Alteration
3
Illusion
3
Enchantment
4
Abjuration/Invocation
4
Alteration
4
Illusion
5
Invocation
5
Invocation
6
Enchantment
6
Invocation or Necromancy