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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Core Rules, 2nd Printing Progress

I've been working on this over the last 3 months, based on feedback from other groups that bought and play the game and my own group. Most of it was minor tweaking here and there, but there have been 3 major changes/additions -
  1. Bards were folded back into a Magic-user subclass. They started out that way in the Onn S&W Supplement I. I just like the idea of 3 base classes and on their own as a fully-fledged class they just don't seem right.
  2. Saving throw progressions now match a character's attack progression ability, so a player need only make changes all at once when he reaches a plateu in combat ability, instead of having to check everything at each level.
  3. I've decided to include the Barbarian in the 2nd print Core Rules as a Fighting-man subclass. In order to remain compatible with the 1st print, the Companion Book will include them in an appendix for those still playing 1st print.
In addition to errata there is some new material, especially in the magic section. The addition of new spells makes for a robust selection, but still has enough gaps for players to research their own innovative magics. Spell errata varied wildly from the feedback I recieved and even in my own group.
  • Clerics now have access to 12-1st, 11-2nd, 10-3rd, 9-4th, 9-5th and 9-6th level spells, total count 60 spells.
  • Druids now have acces to 16-1st, 16-2nd, 16-3rd, 15-4th, 15-5th and 15-6th level spells, total count 93 spells.
  • Illusionists got a major overhaul with 19-1st, 17-2nd, 15-3rd, 11-4th, 10 5th and 9-6th level spells, total count 81 spells.
  • Magic-users have been expanded to 28-1st, 26-2nd, 23-3rd, 23-4th, 21-5th, 19-6th and 16-7th level spells, total count 156 spells.
This is as far as I've gotten, but I have plans to include about 20 more monsters across the level ranges, more Referee information and some new magic items. If time permits Kimberly, hopefully there will be some new art in the layout as well.

In regards to the Companion, I will use an appendix to keep compatibility with the 1st print rules (aside from the Bard and Barbarian, there is very little since Saving Throws are all listed in the Core Rules for all levels). So no matter what there's something for everyone.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Energy Draining and Restoration

Few things scare the hell out of old school players like petrification and energy draining. These are attack forms for which few recourses are available to reverse and in some situatons, are irreversible. Energy draining in particular is nasty for a character as in the most common form of D&D and its variant rulesets energy draining removes experience points from a character and lessens his effective level on the spot. No saving throw, no immediate recourse. Being hit multiple times results in multiple level losses (and some creatures can do so with each attack!) and create diminishing returns on a character's experience points on defeat of the creatures.

Also, the determining method as where the character ends up on the experience points needed to level from his newly reduced level depend on the game and version - from the minimum needed to be the new level, to the midpoint, to just 1 point shy of the old level. Experience is used as a nebulous measure of how much a character has learned / been through / understands what he has lived through, but yet the draining creature gains no benefit (other than healing a few hit points in some editions) and those points are lost forever. The most commonly used versions of the Restoration spell carry a heavy price for the caster and only restore enough experience to be at the minimum needed for the next higher level. If a character has been drained multiple levels, it can be an expensive endeavor.

Toying with various systems when working on Onn, I settled on a system that is similar to the scare-the-hell-out-of-you old school way, but with a twist:

Energy drained characters gain a System Shock saving throw and if that fails they lose level(s). Now, Onn's System Shock values are low enough that this seems like a good deal (17+ Constitution has a value of 20%, roll d% + level up to 10, trying to achieve a result equal or higher than your System Shock value). But this still means at least once out of every 5 or so attacks that hit will drain a level (or more, depending on how fickle the dice are).

Losing a level carries all of the connotations of D&D - the affected individual loses a number of hit points, his combat ability lessens, he loses the ability to cast some spells, etc and becomes a character of his new level. The draining creature heals a few hit points, sucking some of the character's life force away. The character keeps the same number of experience points though. He still retains his memories and knowledge, but becomes less able than someone else of the same experience point total due to his being drained of a part of his vital life essence, that intangible thing that makes adventurers a cut above normal members of their race.

When the character accrues enough experience points to advance, he still advances, but is considered one or more levels (depending on how many levels he has lost) less than another character of the same class. If at a later date, the character has a Restoration cast on themselves or some other similar effect, he gains the level(s) back.

For example, a 5th level Fighting-man with 30,000xp gets wacked by a spectre, fails his System Shock roll and loses 2 levels, becoming a 3rd level Fighting-man with 30,000xp. He still has the XP he has gained, but is less of a character for the draining he took than another character of the same XP total. When he reaches 32,000xp, he goes up a level just like any other Fighting-man, but is only 4th level since he has been drained 2 levels. If he has Restoration cast on him twice, he regains the 2 levels, becoming 6th level like any other character of his XP total.

This reduces the book keeping on both sides of the screen since the Referee need only note that the character has been drained 'X' number of levels. No finagling with experience point totals so characters simply continue to accrue them as normal.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Transmute Flesh to Shadow

Transmute Flesh to Shadow*
Spell Level: Illusionist, 6th Level
Range: 20 ft
Duration: Permanent

When cast, if the victim fails a Toughness saving throw he becomes a shadow in all respects but he retains his armor class, hit dice and hit points unless those of a shadow are better. He will resemble his former self, even using shadow versions of his weapons and armor (these do not affect the combat statistics of the shadow).
The reverse of this spell, transmute shadow to flesh, will restore a transformed victim back to normal, or can be used to transform a shadow creature into a flesh and blood creature of a kind closely resembling the shadow with a failed Toughness saving throw (Flesh 'Shadow' - AC 7[12], HD 3+3, Att claw (1d4+Str drain), Save 14, Morale 7, MR Nil, Special strength drain, Move 120 ft (40 ft), CL/XP 4/120). In either case, if a System Shock saving throw is failed, the victim recieves 6d6 points of damage from the transformation.

Shadow Link

Shadow Link
Spell Level: Illusionist, 2nd Level
Range: 30 ft
Duration: 5 rounds + 1 round / level

Shadow Link creates a metaphysical link between a creature and his shadow. If the target fails a Toughness saving throw, his shadow can be attacked with normal physical attacks and the damage inflicted on him as if he took the blow. The armor class of a shadow is 7[12], adjusted for Dexterity.

Shadow Bolt

Illusionists dabble in more than merely the mind - they depend wholly on as much local conditions as much to produce magical effects that seem believable so their opponents believe they are real. Some of their magic comes from places and planes of eternal twilight and shadow however. Because they access these planes moreso than a Magic-user manipulates the Ether, they can turn seemingly innocent or harmless things into semi-real and highly dangerous things.

Shadow Bolt
Spell Level: Illusionist, 3rd Level
Range: 40 ft
Duration: Immediate

When cast, the Illusionist throws a crackling bolt of charged shadow energy 30 ft in length that follows the same rules as per a lightning bolt with respect to obstructions. Victims in the path of the Shadow Bolt recieve 1d4 points of shadow energy damage per level of the Illusionist and are blinded for 1d4 rounds. Victims succeeding a Toughness saving throw recieve half damage and are blinded for 1 round.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Dr. J.E. Holmes, RIP (1930-2010)

A couple of months ago, rumors that Dr. J. Eric Holmes, editor of the 1977 Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set, had died. No one I talk to on a regular basis could confirm this as fact. Allan Grohe did so yesterday in a post on Dragonsfoot Forums, where he relayed information he'd received from Dr. Holmes' wife about his passing. According to Allan's information, Dr. Holmes died on March 20 as the result of a stroke (not his first). He had been of ill health for some time, being unable to attend at least one convention where he was to be featured as a guest of honor because of a previous stroke.

Another icon of the early days of gaming and one of the shapers of my own gaming experiences early in the 'old days' has moved on to the next table. Copies of his 'Blue Book' sit proudly on my shelf, alongside works by Gary, Dave, MAR Barker and other giants that helped shape the way I share my game and introduced me to the good friends I've met and made over the years thanks to this game.
Rest well gentleman and never be forgotten.

Hideous Merriment

Hideous Merriment
Spell Level: Illusionist, 2nd Level
Range: 60 ft
Duration: 5 rounds

When cast this spell will affect 1d6 living creatures. For victims that fail an Ego saving throw, they begin laughing hysterically and dancing a mad jig for the spell’s duration, unable to attack and losing any positive Dexterity adjustments and possible shield bonuses to armor class. When the spell ends, the victims are forced to make a Toughness saving throw, with failure indicating they suffer from exhaustion.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Wall of Thorns

Wall of Thorns
Spell Level: Druid, 6th Level
Range: 80 ft
Duration: Permanent

The Druid conjures up thorny vines filling a 5 ft x 5 ft x 10 ft cube per two levels. Creatures in the area of the thorns suffer 2d4+2 points of damage. Hacking through 5 ft of vines with edged weapons inflicts full damage, whiel blunt weapons and piercing weapons inflict minimum damage. Each round spent hacking through the wall inflicts damage to the character. Each 5 ft section of the wall possesses 24 hit points plus the caster's level. Moving through a hole created thusly inflicts half damage each 5 ft moved due to the stray vines sticking and hanging out to catch the unwary. Normal fire is ineffective against the wall of thorns, but magical fire will burn them, creating an effect similar to a wall of fire for 1d4 turns if the damage is not enough to outright destroy it.


Spell Level: Druid, 1st Level
Range: Touch
Duration: 1 turn

The Druid can enchant a wooden club or staff to be a +1 weapon that inflicts 2d4+1 points of damage. For the purpose of damage reduction, it functions as Arc Wood as well.

Divine Disciple

Several times in my games players of Clerics have asked if they could use the holy energy of 'turn undead' to accomplish other things. In 3rd edition, this is commonly encouraged by the taking of various 'divine feats'. Since Onn uses no such 'modern' system, I've winged it and allowed various (minor) effects from time to time, since in my estimation, a Deity provides what (it) feels his faithful needs to accomplish their tasks of providing worship and attracting prestige, wealth and new followers.

Since Onn only allows for limited turning attempts in a single day (2 to 5, based on the Cleric's Wisdom adjustment), I thought a spell appropriate to define what else a Cleric can do with this ability. The effects are minor, especially since it effectively allows for a variance of effects and grants additional powers to a powerful class already, but they are useful, especially to a Cleric of 3rd level or higher who has some spell slots to play with.

Divine Disciple
Spell Level: Cleric, 1st Level
Range: Self
Duration: 48 turns (8 hours)

Divine Sacrifice allows the Cleric to put the holy energy his Deity provides for his ability to Turn Undead to other uses. After this spell is cast the Cleric can choose what effect his use of each individual turn undead attempt will have (if he chooses not to actually turn the undead):
  • All allies in the area of effect are healed 1 hit point (dying allies are treated as if they succeeded at their System Shock roll for the round).
  • The Cleric can affect Demons and attempt to exorcise them as a Divine Champion, but at half his Cleric level.
  • Clerical wards and sealing spells / effects can be destroyed with the same chances as dispel evil, but at half the Cleric’s level.
  • A turn attempt can be used to augment a healing spell immediately cast after it, increasing the effect of the healing spell by +50%.
The Referee may decide that other uses may be possible as well, at his discretion.