Legendary Pants http://www.legendarypants.net One leg at a time! Wed, 16 Aug 2017 15:21:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.1 https://i0.wp.com/www.legendarypants.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/cropped-wordless-color.png?fit=32%2C32 Legendary Pants http://www.legendarypants.net 32 32 Project Arcana: Applied Magic – Adding the New Schools to Your 5e Campaign http://www.legendarypants.net/project-arcana-applied-magic-adding-the-new-schools-to-your-5e-campaign/ http://www.legendarypants.net/project-arcana-applied-magic-adding-the-new-schools-to-your-5e-campaign/#respond Wed, 09 Aug 2017 18:11:47 +0000 http://www.legendarypants.net/?p=864

One of the initial drivers of Project Arcana – other than the frothing rage caused by Mirage Arcane – was the desire to be able to do more with the magic system. As we finished up Phase 1, we realized that in a lot of ways, casting magic is like martial arts. There are only so many ways you can manipulate the human body, so different schools and styles rearrange the same basic stuff into different sets of strikes, techniques, and katas. Similarly, there are only so many ways the human mind and spirit can manipulate magical energies. The Schools and their Forms establish a basis for understanding and manipulating magic to affect reality, but that understanding varies for each caster. This is why casters find they have an affinity for a particular school of magic or configuration of the schools: It’s a different way to discipline the mind to manipulate the energies of magic.

Two Magical Configurations

To show how this works, LP is kicking out two of an infinite series of possible configurations. Again, these configurations are an interpretation of magic; a way to organize it so that it makes sense to the caster and, so organized, can aid in understanding, use, and mastery.

The Wheel of Ipicofeus

The Wheel is a configuration of the Schools and their Forms into complimentary types. No magical School is truly compatible with any other (otherwise there would be only one school), but some Schools and Forms are more compatible than others. For instance Mentus, which manipulates the mind, and Verum, which expands it; or Vitae, which deals with the spiritual energy and life, and Mutae, which alters the very nature of living things. This configuration is preferred by academics and studious scholars of magic.

For magical traditions which rely upon regularity and steadiness, a caster’s available spells might include two or three adjacent schools. For those traditions that are not as constrained, or are random, a caster might study schools that are not adjacent.

The Decryo Arrangement

The Decryo Arrangement presents the forces of magic in a state of dynamic tension, forever balancing opposing facets of existence: Excitus-Mutae (Energy/Matter), Euntus-Verum (Space/Time), Vitae-Mentus (Body/Mind). With this arrangement, the Schools are generally accessed in their pure state, and multi-disciplinary magic is not common. Because it draws a hard line between schools, the arrangement of the Forms isn’t important in Decryo Arrangement. Decryo is preferred by casters and Societies whose magic is gained through means other than study, but it is by no means exclusive to them.

Certain Societies of casters use the Triadyne subsets of the Decryo Arrangement: Excitus-Mentus-Verum and Euntus-Mutae-Vitae. This prevents collapse of the Arrangement by shifting the dynamic tension, and the Triads associate in two zones: Notatus (Excitus-Mentus-Verum) and Physicus (Euntus-Mutae-Vitae). The use of the Triadyne subsets allows latitude for casters seeking larger spell sets.

Integrating the Wheel of Ipicofeus and the Decryo Arrangement with 5e

The caster classes in 5e are certainly more guided than the old 1e magic user class, which left pretty much everything up to the player, and they create casters that are far more useful at low levels than they used to be. In 1e up to level 4, Schmendork the Magician was good for a couple of Magic Missiles, and would then hide behind a table, throw flasks of oil, and hope nothing bigger than a kobold noticed he was there.

But, with the new caster classes come new considerations, and integrating an updated magic system won’t be as easy as it was when the only option was a ‘magic user’, who had wide open playing field.

So, how can the current casters use these setups?

First, it’s important to remember that the only thing changing is the list of available spells from which the caster can choose. Nothing else about the class changes. Period. Nada. Zilch. Zippo. Project Arcana is not about altering the existing classes. That being said, altering the lists of spells available to the classes can fundamentally change how they play and has the potential to unbalance the character. It will be up to the DM and players to make sure the resulting characters are neither too strong, nor too weak.

NOTE: The spell lists provided by PA arrangements include all spells in the school/form, regardless of prior assignment.  For example, this means that a Wizard with access to Vitae can absolutely cast Cure Wounds.

(Disclaimer: Nobody has tried this out yet, and Matthew doesn’t think it will work.)

Sorcerers

Sorcerer magic is innate and its expression is unpredictable. Therefore, regardless of the configuration for which they find affinity, their magically conflicted nature will always emerge. Sorcerers using the Wheel of Ipicofeus will have a primary school based on the life event or circumstance that grants their magic, and four additional forms selected at random from the other schools. These (plus Neutrum) will be their spell list.

Sorcerers with an affinity for the Decryo Arrangement find that, like the Ipicofeus, their primary school is based on the source of their magic. But with the Decryo, the Sorcerer is drawn to the school opposite his own. For example: Sorcerers with an energy dragon ancestry would find themselves drawn to Excitus (Blue, Brass, Bronze, Gold, Red, Silver), and those with a chemical dragon ancestry to Mutae (Black, Copper, Green). They will have that primary school and the Decryo opposite school (plus Neutrum) for their spell lists.

Warlocks

We believe that Warlocks, with their magical patron and their very limited, finely tuned spell list, will be the most difficult caster class into which to work the Project Arcana Schools. That being said, we’re going to take a stab at it.

When a Warlock picks his patron at Level 1, instead of a commitment to either of the arrangements above, the patron grants three forms from any Schools (plus Neutrum), and these comprise the warlock’s spell list.

Here are suggested forms for the patrons mentioned in the 5e OGL:

  • The Fiend: Necromancy (Vitae), Heat (Excitus), Summons (Euntus)
  • The Archfey: Enchantment (Mentus), Illusion (Mentus), Senses (Verum)
  • The Old One: Interference (Mentus), Interplanar (Euntus), Knowledge (Verum)

There is no reason, of course, that the DM and the player can’t work together to tweak these for a specific warlock character. Maybe some fiends are more inclined toward power, or spirituality. This is an excellent opportunity to customize a Warlock and make their backstory matter.

Wizards

Wizards are all about options, their Arcane Tradition being the most important here. The choice of Arcane Tradition determines which spells a wizard will have available. But, Arcane Tradition is selected at level 2, which means the wizard’s spell list is undetermined until then. LP recommends two options for 1st level wizards using PA magic:

  • Wizards choose an Arcane Tradition at level 1, establishing the available spells immediately.
  • Wizards use cantrips and spells from any school until choosing an Arcane Tradition at level 2.

The first option is easy, but changes a rule of the class; even though it is a rule that only determines their spell list at this point. The second option leaves some room for abuse by multiclassing characters, but doesn’t change any class rules.

Wizards using the Wheel of Ipicofeus will choose a primary school as their Arcane Tradition. They will also have the two schools adjacent to the primary school (plus Neutrum) to comprise their spell list. Wizards using the Decryo Arrangement will choose a primary school as their Arcane Tradition, and that school and the other two schools in the Triadyne (plus Neutrum) will comprise their spell list.

Wizards may also choose Neutrum as their Arcane Tradition, in which case they may choose to study any three schools for their spell list.

What’s Next?

We’re not done yet with Project Arcana, but this is the end of the OGL stuff. Then next piece will include an additional organization of the Schools and a new caster classes that are created specifically to work with the PA magic system.

Stay tuned!

Need the updated Project Arcana spell lists?  Get them here: http://www.legendarypants.net/product/project-arcana-phase-i/

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code::2050: Economy http://www.legendarypants.net/code2050-economy/ http://www.legendarypants.net/code2050-economy/#respond Wed, 02 Aug 2017 16:22:44 +0000 http://www.legendarypants.net/?p=1887

So, one of the last big things we need to crank out for the code::2050 SRD is the economy. Yeah, it’s a biggie, and I’ve been putting it off for a while. However, once I finally sat down to do it, I realized that it was pretty easy for one simple reason: I can just make this shit up.

Let’s start with the fundamentals.

Currency

We all know the standard currency for D&D is the Gold Piece. This has been true pretty much from the very beginning, and it is generally true of all fantasy medieval settings. However, the standard currency of future-future settings is always the “credit.” Well, except for approximately 90% cyberpunk settings which always use the New Yen or the Nuyen, or the Neo Yen. Yeah, apparently Japan’s currency is going to be awesome after it collapses and reforms.

So, on the one hand, we could stick to real world currencies projected forward (I’m lobbying for the NuRupee), or, on the other hand, we could go with a whole new thing like the “credit.” The gripping hand of it is that we are projecting a D&D setting forward into the future, so just using “Gold” is also an option.

This last option, in the end, is what we’ve decided to go with. In code::2050, everything still costs “gold,” even though it is all in paper and digital currencies. Indeed, if you’ve been watching our code::2050 playtest at all, you’ll hear me say things in terms of how much gold they cost.

The primary reason for this, aside from a genuine lack of creativity, is familiarity and compatibility. One of the top priorities for this ruleset is to stay as true to vanilla 5e rules as possible. In terms of buying gear, that means keeping the prices the same. I don’t want to force players of code::2050 to look up a piece of equipment in the PHB, then work through an equation to spit out the “modern currency” equivalent. Shit, even typing that sentence makes me hate that process. It’s too many steps between players and fun.

Manufacturing

The secondary economic concern, especially in terms of how much stuff generally costs, is that modern manufacturing is generally way cheaper than that used in fantasy medieval settings. In some cases, this is problematic, but in others it’s surprisingly not. This is especially true of weapons and armor.

A sword is WAY easier to make in the modern day than it was hundreds of years ago. It’s even easier if you’re not married to forged steel, and branch out into other modern materials. So, intuitively, it should be cheaper. However, and this is where good ol’ Adam Smith can help us out, there is also a far smaller demand for combat-ready swords in the modern eras. Gone are the days when a king would requisition a thousand new swords for his knights errant. Instead, the market is relegated to a relative handful of hobbyists and their suppliers. Smaller demand means smaller supply, and smaller supply means the price goes up. So, we have a sword that is physically cheaper to make, but more expensive due to its rarity. In my thinking, these cancel each other out. So, in terms of weapon and armor, the prices will be the same.

A similar phenomenon occurs with things that are made with modern materials. Let’s take the bedroll as an example. There are lots and lots of sleeping bags made today, and they are undoubtedly a quicker and cheaper manufacturing process than a medieval bedroll. Hell, back in the day, that shit required a trip to the tannery! Today, a factory can spit out dozens a day. This, of course, brings down the cost. However, it is also true that the materials used in modern sleeping bags are far superior to simple leather. There’s tough nylon, insulative stuffing…stuff, fancy zippers, etc. Those materials cost money, and bring the price back up a notch. Added to that their general efficacy (a modern sleeping bag can keep you warm at temperatures below zero without much trouble), and you have another bump in price. All in all, these ups and downs will even out. Want a modern sleeping bag? Snag a bedroll from the PHB, and we’re in business.

Some things are, however, more problematic. Take a glass bottle, for instance. In the PHB, this is listed as 2 gp in value. That’s twice the cost of a bedroll. Yikes! This makes sense when we consider that, back in the day, the only option for glass vessels was hand-blown. That’s a slow, skilled, and, therefore, expensive process. Today, we spit out glass bottles so cheaply that sometimes it feels like it’s not worth the trouble to walk all the way to the recycle bin to throw it away. They’re a nothing expense. This is also true of metalworking that is still in very high demand, such as chains. Chains used to take a smith weeks to pound together. Now, though, a machine can spit out yards and yards of the stuff in minutes. So, in code::2050, we’ll need to make sure these things are cheaper. In all honesty, these sorts of things are so cheap, that I’m not sure I would even charge my players if they wanted to pick up some bottles or a hundred feet of chain.

Gold Sink

One of my chief complaints about D&D has always been how hard it is to spend money. By level five, a party is gushing with thousands of gold and nothing really to do with it. Don’t worry, we know exactly how much a meal costs at different levels of fineness, but once I hit the quadruple digits in gold, I stop keeping track of anything that costs less than 50 gold. After 10,000 gold, I stop caring about even that.

It used to be that you could buy magic items, and they were pricey. However, after you got the ones you wanted, to had nothing left to buy. Healing is free, arrows are negligible, and food is dirt cheap (or free, depending on your cleric’s spell prep). What’s the solution to this? Fuck if I know.

However, I’m going to try to subtly change this. First of all, ammunition costs money, and in a near-future setting, bullets will be the go-to physical weapon. I know tracking ammo can be a bit tiresome, but it’s crucial if you want to keep the economy even remotely reasonable. Second, things like grenades and computer scripts are expensive and have limited uses.

Below, I’m going to include some gear tables we haven’t published yet (and I’ll add them to the SRD). These tables are still in flux, so they will change even after I publish this. Further, I have added costs to all of the weapons, armor, and cybernetics tables in the SRD. Even the vehicles got prices, though these are clearly just me saying “uh, 10,000 sounds good!”

Ammunition Cost
DamageCost (per 20)Weight (per 20)
1d41 gp.5 lb
1d62 gp1 lb
1d8 or 2d43 gp1.5 lb
1d104 gp2 lb
1d12 or 2d65 gp2.5 lb
Adventuring Gear
ItemCostWeight
Smartphone25 gp.5 lb
Laptop50 gp3 lb
Headset5 gp-
AR Glasses15 gp.5 lb
VR Headset & Gloves30 gp2 lb
Immersion Trodes500 gp2 lb
Scripts
NameCostUsesEffect
Cracker100 gp6+2 on Intelligence(Computers) checks to break into a secured computer.
Sniffer100 gp6+2 to Intelligence(Investigation) checks when searching a computer.
Decrypter100 gp6+2 to Intelligence(Computers) checks to break into locked and encrypted files.
Tracer100 gp6+2 to Intelligence(Computers) checks to map networks, find specific devices on a network, or trace data streams.
Defender100 gp6+2 to checks and saving throws against countermeasures.
Scrambler100 gp6+2 to Intelligence(Computers) checks to erase drives and make batches of data irrecoverable.
Tier 2 Version500 gp3+4 to appropriate checks.
Tier 3 Version1,500 gp1+6 to appropriate checks
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code::2050: Drones, Drones, Drones http://www.legendarypants.net/code2050-drones-drones-drones/ http://www.legendarypants.net/code2050-drones-drones-drones/#respond Thu, 27 Jul 2017 17:31:41 +0000 http://www.legendarypants.net/?p=1862

A funny kind of thing happened a little less than a decade ago: the word “drone” gained two ultraspecific meanings. First, there’s the military kind with the missiles and beluga whale head. Second, it’s the little quadcopter with the selfie stick on it. That’s pretty much it.

However, prior to those two paradigms coopting the word, it was a bit more broad. It meant any kind of autonomous thing that flitted about and did stuff. Really, it’s a robot that isn’t stationary, or an android that doesn’t resemble a human. It’s a self-contained affair performing its function.

This latter is the use code::2050 is going to use. Yeah, we could call everything a “robot,” but it just doesn’t have the sleek, futurespeak sound that “drone” does.

What’s a drone?

In code::2050, a “drone” is an electronic construct which has any level of autonomy. Effectively, it is a piece of wiring and mechanisms which can self-direct in some sort of capacity. Admittedly, that capacity can be pretty small.

The big example I will use a lot is the self-driving car. In code::2050, this is a drone, albeit a sizable one. It has the ability and computational capacity to direct itself about, even though it requires some direction from an operator (gotta tell the thing where you want it to go). Fancy ones may even be able to perform simple tasks, like “orbit” an area until summoned, or “go home.”

Now, because it’s a construct, it’ll have stats just like any other monster in the game. Really, a self-driving car is just a clay golem run by electricity rather than magic. These stat blocks are important for a few reasons.

  1. There will be no surprises or guesswork as to how spells and other effects work on drones. Does it need to roll a CON save? There’s a stat for that. Does it suffer a loss of STR? There’s a stat for that. Can it be poisoned? Probably not, and it’ll tell you that too.
  2. The rules for each drone are self-contained. We’d be hard-pressed to come up with a comprehensive set of rules that apply equally to a little flying eyeball drone and a self-driving cargo ship. So, we won’t. Instead, the rules for each kind of drone are contained in the stat blocks themselves, much like the rules for Zombies or Skeletons.
  3. They are endlessly moddable. When the drones are all individual blocks, it’s easy to write up your own and include them! Heck, that’s a brilliant idea!

When I first decided to write this post, I wanted to come up with complex and intricately brilliant rules for piloting and guiding drones around the world, especially in combat. However, try as I might, I couldn’t come up with any, because they already exist: Rangers directing their beast companions, Wizards directing their elementals, etc. are all examples. So, it’s straight forward enough: if a drone understands verbal commands, that’s free (just like directing an elemental or a familiar). Inputting a quick command into, say, a remote control device (like a smartphone App) would be a bonus action. Anything more complex (like actively piloting a drone using a briefcase with a joystick, or programming a string of commands) will be an action.

That’s it. Simple.

So, now that all those rules are out of the way, let’s get to the fun stuff. Here are stat blocks for a half dozen different drones that can be dropped into a campaign right now. Enjoy!

 

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The F-Word: Monsters Made Monstrous http://www.legendarypants.net/the-f-word-monsters-made-monstrous/ Wed, 19 Jul 2017 12:00:38 +0000 http://www.legendarypants.net/?p=1817

We’ve all been there. Stalking down a corridor, weapons in hand, ready to do battle with the Forces of Evil. The corridor opens before us into a great chamber, stone pillars rising up to the vaulted ceiling above, the musty smell of ancient midden heaps assaulting your nostrils. Piles of filth have been discarded on either side of the room, twice the height of a man, leaving a narrow path through the center that leads to a pair of oak doors on the opposite side. You trudge cautiously through down the path, wary of danger, when, all of a sudden, the world explodes around you! You’re surrounded by jabbering, green skinned goblins, brandishing rusted swords!

Think about how you would react in real life. Surprise? Horror? Fierce determination?

The party coolly takes stock of the situation. Saving throws are cast to determine who is surprised. The fighter pulls out her trusty longsword, readying herself to attack the nearest one. The cleric whips out his holy symbol, summoning the blessing of his god. The rogue maneuvers to a flanking position, knowing that she can use her skills to move through the mounds. The wizard starts casting a sleep spell, which he knows is effective against low level bad guys.

So—where did the horror go? It evaporated in a mist of familiarity. Everyone in the party had an idea of what they were facing, and how to defeat it, even if their characters wouldn’t have. They knew all the basic stats—attacks, hit dice, strengths and weaknesses. Just as importantly, they knew how they squared up against their enemy, and had an idea of about how difficult the encounter would be. You know, the kind of stuff you’d WANT to know if you were about to get in a fight to the death. And exactly the kind of information that drains the suspense from an encounter.

Monsters Made Mundane

This is the problem with a stat-driven role-playing game. Your monsters are a collection of stats. They HAVE to be—that’s how we know if we’re winning. On a basic level, these stats determine how challenging a foe the characters are facing. But even the lowly goblin is more than just a set of numbers; it’s also a pretty face.

That begs the question, though: how monstrous do we really want goblins to be? Do they fit into your world as the dungeon equivalent to vermin, something to be exterminated by novice adventurers with no more thought than a sense of disgust? Or do you really want them to be mysterious, chilling, horrifying creatures that give heroes nightmares?

There’s nothing wrong with making some creatures in your world feel mundane, but that sense of the ordinary should be tied to familiarity with the characters. Every encounter should be fun, and present a challenge, but there’s no reason why every creature should inspire terror. More importantly, as characters progress in skill, encounters that once seemed overwhelming should be measured with greater degrees of confidence. When that happens—when the goblins that once inspired fear are greeted with a jaunty, “I got this”—just make sure that there’s something a little bigger, and a little badder, lurking just around the corner.

Mundane Made Monstrous

So, how do you do it? How do you take that old, familiar picture from the Critter Catalogue, and make it something new again? When experienced players start new characters or new campaigns, this can be especially problematic. How do you take veteran players and get them to suspend years of experience playing RPGs and get nervous about an encounter with a pack of goblins again? Make them monsters again. Throw a little something unexpected into the mix.

Creatures are essentially comprised of three elements. First, there is the description of the creature itself—how it looks, how it behaves, and how it interacts with the world. Second, there are the statistics that all creatures share—attack, damage, toughness, speed, and whatever else dictates the flow of battle in the system. Third, there are the special strengths and weaknesses of the monster type—immunities, special abilities, magic use, and a whole host of other potential foils for the players. These are the things with which the players have familiarized themselves. A few small tweaks can introduce an element of doubt, revitalizing the sense of wonder that the players feel.

The monster description is the easiest to tinker with. Goblins in your campaign could have beet-red skin, or could jabber incessently in an unknowable language, or could be six feet tall with long, lanky builds. You could make them tree-dwellers, or live in the swamps, or daytime raiders instead of attacking at night. You could have their gods require the sacrifice of human children, or give them a taste for livestock, or have them burrow into the cellars of human dwellings. None of these change the difficutly of an encounter, but these added elements give a sense of the unknown and reintroduce that dramatic tension.

Statistics are another good one. Your goblins attack with a short sword, for 1d6 damage? That’s fine. Mine have claw-claw-bite. When a player gets hit with that attack routine for the first time, warning bells are going to go off. Who cares that they do 1d2-1, 1d2-1, and 1d4-1? The players won’t know that! Give them a few more hit points and the players will be surprised when they don’t go down in one hit. When they run on all fours and have a faster movement speed, the characters will find themselves on the defensive so they don’t get flanked or surrounded. That ankylosaurus-like hide of theirs will make players wonder how effective their weapons will be. All of these are minor tweaks to statistics that refresh a stale encounter.

Special abilities can practically panic a party, making them feel like they have no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into. When the goblin invaders start conjuring balls of black fire into their hands and throwing them at the party, your players will react. They can have the same stats as a thrown dagger, ensuring that the encounter isn’t terribly unbalanced—but the juxtaposition of a lowly goblin with the realization that it may be summoning the fires of hell itself will do the job. Goblins that regenerate like trolls—refusing to stay dead without something like decapitation—can also be terrifying as the players struggle to figure out how to keep them down. Given all of the options in both rules books and your imagination, the possibilities are endless.

Location, Location, Location

Your campaign should be a realm with all sorts of places. As your campaign progresses, your characters may have the opportunity to travel to different regions. Each of these regions will have their own distinctive details, like setting, character races, the culture of its people, and the like. Why not use that to your advantage?

Everyone needs low level encounters. They help you build up the experience needed to face the truly horrifying things—beholders, mind flayers, the dreaded Demogorgon. But why should the goblins of the South March look like the goblins in the Sundered Hills? The goblins of the Plains of Arqaa ride war ponies. In the Hollow Wood, they are immune to charm and sleep spells. The goblins that inhabit the Daggertooth Mountains lick their swords with a venom that burns terribly, giving a -1 to all checks until it runs its course. Those from the Burning Swamp are seven feet tall, with mottled flesh, and they drop on unsuspecting victims from the webs that they spin in the trees above.

Sure, they’re all basically the same, low level creatures. None of them are terribly tough, and all of them look vaguely gobliny. But, for the players, they will be new encounters. As an added advantage, making them distinct can add a certain richness to a region, giving it another level of detail that makes your world a more well developed place.

Just as importantly, consider how civilized your world is. Then ask yourself how dangerous that civilized world should be. Most people aren’t adventurers. If there were ankheg in every farmer’s field, or giant spiders in the cellars of common merchants, or ROUSes roaming the sewers of your city, how would common folk survive? Imagine America with packs of rabid dogs that roam small towns, or leopards that stalk prey in Central Park. For most people, monsters represent an existential threat. Sure, people in Florida might find gators in their swimming pools—but everywhere else, anything big and dangerous enough to kill humans has to be contained or eliminated before humans will settle there.

Not so for the wilderness. Beyond the fringes of human settlement, terrible creatures await. Tigers stalk the jungles of India, and they are not above taking man as prey. Great anacondas slink through the treetops of the Amazon, ready to make a meal of the unsuspecting. And woe unto the unfortunate soul who tries to cross hippopotamus infested waters in Africa! Consider distributing monsters in your world in a similar fashion—making the truly dangerous creatures more prevalent as the characters get further into wild lands. The more players venture from the safety of the known, the easier it is to build a sense of the unknown.

The F-Word

Most importantly, encounters should be fun. You can keep the magic alive by mixing up the familiar with the unknown. Change a creature’s description and watch the players worry about what they’re facing. Have that goblin spit poison at the characters. Give it a banshee’s howl that makes it hard for players to communicate and cast spells. Give your goblins regional varieties that introduce new flavors to your campaign.

But if it’s fun to your players to clear a basement of garden variety goblin squatters—why not go with it? Your players will let you know what they think is fun. Most Antagonist Archives have plenty of different types of creatures in them already. If the players aren’t bored with them, feel free to stick with the source material. After all, why invest time in world building when you could invest it in story building?

In the end, it’s up to you to create a world that keeps players engaged. Regardless of what your creatures look like, your game has to be engaging and immersive. The dramatic tension of an encounter shouldn’t be undermined by a sense of bored familiarity. People play role-playing games to get into a magical, fantastical world, one where danger lurks around the corner, and any encounter can be a deadly one. It’s your job to foster that sense of mystery, of danger, of peril in your players’ minds. Players want to feel like children in the dark, imagining the monster under the bed, wondering what will befall them from the shadow of the tree in their window. When that starts to slip away, it’s time to reintroduce the monstrous to your encounters.

Even if it’s with the lowly goblin.

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code::2050 Playtest Alpha AAR: Ivan’s Bane http://www.legendarypants.net/code2050-playtest-alpha-aar-ivans-bane/ Mon, 17 Jul 2017 18:33:04 +0000 http://www.legendarypants.net/?p=1821
So, Friday night was the first official test of code::2050 as a 5e extension. From my perspective, the key points in this session were our first test of the hacking and firearms rules.

What Happens in Prague…

Just to lay out the scenario with a quick sketch: Our team, consisting of a Drow rogue hacker, a Tabaxi ranger, a Human bard, a Human paladin, and a Human monk, were engaged to investigate a nightclub in Prague to determine why it is so much more popular than a very similar, nearby club. We went to the club, did a hack, did a combat, and found something interesting.

The First Hack

The five steps we laid out in the Q&D Guide to Hacking are, so far, rock solid. They accomplished exactly what they were meant to accomplish: they gave both the hacker and the DM a common concept and starting point. After less than a one minute rundown of the steps, the hacker was able to get where she needed to get and to find what she needed to find on the club’s network. This was especially satisfying, because the hacker, who is a teenager and who has had computers, phones, and tablets available to her for her entire life, was completely at a loss as to how to proceed. This is the essential difference between driving a car and repairing a car.

The DM did a good job of mediating the things the hacker was attempting, as far as difficulty and time, but in my opinion he needed to be a little more ‘assistive’, since this was the first time anyone had done this, him included. The hacker needed a little more guidance and hand-holding as far as what really deserved her attention. And, since she was physically separated from the rest of us, she was kind of on her own.

Later, of course, we realized that there was wifi throughout the club, which would have saved the hassle and risk of sneaking into the office and having the hacker physically separated. We won’t make that mistake again.

Bringing a Knife to a Gun Fight

We later busted in on some guards and got into a fight, and the fight included guns. Our rogue and two of the guards got shots off. I took some damage from a burst of submachinegun fire, and one of the guards was killed by a shot from the rogue. The remainder of the combat was using hand weapons, which proved to be quite devastating up close, where the firearms were at a disadvantage due to the zero range.

The damage from the guns was significant, but nothing out of line for the scale of the combat. Guns aren’t nice, but they aren’t game-changers, either. So far, so good there.

World-Building Lessons

I’m already seeing where our efforts need to be directed toward world building for the code::2050 core rules. While the concept of a modern city and a nightclub were familiar enough, we were lacking important information that the DM kind of filled us in with on the fly.

Among these things:

  • How prevalent is magic, and what will people do if they see you use it?
  • How do people react to adventurers, since with all our crap we clearly were such?
  • What are the rules and attitudes regarding the weapons we’re carrying?

Frankly, I was more than a little surprised that we were allowed into a nightclub with all our crap. I would have expected it to at least get checked at the door. But we were ushered in, no problem. Whatevs, not my club.

What About Next Time?

We’ll be playing again in a couple weeks. I can already see where we can improve things by leveraging technology that it hadn’t occurred to us to leverage before now. Part of that can be attributed to the running start, where ‘in game’ the team has been working together for some weeks, with this being our first actual session. Part of it, in my case at least, is I’m thinking as if the setting is medieval, rather than slightly postmodern.

I’ve got some ideas on how to make that work for us. We’ll see how it goes next time.

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code::2050 – The Quick-and-Dirty Guide to Hacking http://www.legendarypants.net/code2050-the-quick-and-dirty-guide-to-hacking/ http://www.legendarypants.net/code2050-the-quick-and-dirty-guide-to-hacking/#comments Wed, 12 Jul 2017 12:00:51 +0000 http://www.legendarypants.net/?p=1773

So, it’s time to talk about how to actually conduct a hack in code::2050.

We fought long and hard about this.

Anyone who’s been following along this far knows that Matthew’s take was, “Here’s a computer, go!”, where mine was, “You see a network, roll to connect. You’re in the network, roll to scan for devices. You detect a vending machine, a thermostat, two computer terminals, a PlayStation 17, an Amazon Echo, a smart refrigerator, a hot water heater, three door locks, and a data silo labelled ‘Secret Stuff Here’. Your rig is green with blue stripes and the network is mauve, which has the most RAM. Roll to make a double half-caff mocha latte!”

We needed to meet in the middle somewhere: Something simple and usable so that GMs and Hackers have a basic understanding of what to do, how to do it, and how hard it is; but not so barebones that it left everyone scratching their heads going, “What now?”

Here’s a guide to quick-and-dirty hacking. It’s broken down into several steps, each with a one-sentence description of what you’re doing, a thumbnail difficulty based on who you’re trying to hack, suggested penalties for failing at that point, and then some clever text to give it a little flavor. And at the end short discussions about scripting, hacking, and countermeasures.

The thumbnail DC of each step is based on the size of the entity you’re hacking:

SizeCivilGovernment*
SmallHome / Small Business (10 employees) Town
MidsizeMedium Business (100 employees)Small City
LargeLarge Business (1,000 employees)Large city
HugeMultinational Corporation (10,000 employees)Megacity / Nation / Military
*Includes the police or security forces for that size government.

Alright, guns up! Let’s do this.

Step 1: Connect

Action: Connect your rig to a network access point, either wirelessly or through a port.
Difficulty: Small: 15, Midsize: 15, Large: 10, Huge: 10.
Penalty: Physical dangers finding and getting to the access point, loss of access through password violations.

The difficulty is in finding an open connection; the bigger you are, the more connections you have, and the easier it is to find one. But a lot of the difficulty is going to depend on where that connection is. You may be able to connect through the Net while nibbling jamón in Madrid, or you might be able to plug into a port in an office building while pretending to be a repairman, or your team may have to shoot their way into a security substation at a corporate warehouse. How you get here is up to your GM.

Step 2: Seek

Action: Look for the data, device, etc. that you need.
Difficulty: Small: 5, Midsize: 10, Large: 15, Huge: 20.
Penalty: The time required to search.

Sure, shuffling through a home server is child’s play, but big corporations have big networks and big data farms, and that robocab company has thousands of vehicles. Finding the exact file or exact cab you’re looking for might take longer than you’re expecting. Hopefully you’ve done your homework, or have someone on the inside to get you pointed in the right direction and save you some time. And, hey, the clock is ticking!

Step 3: Defeat

Action: Bypass, suppress, or defeat any countermeasures you encounter.
Difficulty: Small: 5, Midsize: 10, Large: 15, Huge: 20. (Varies internally based on secrecy.)
Penalty: Small: Setback, Midsize: Setback, Large: Dangerous, Huge Government: Dangerous, Huge Civil: Deadly (Based on Trap DCs and Attack Bonuses from the 5e Online Compendium section on traps.)

Lots of potential dangers here, and this is where you’re most likely to get pinched if you screw up. Depending on the size of the prize and the nastiness of the guy you’re hacking, that might hurt a lot. Grabbing some incriminating dirty pics from some guy’s home server? You’ll probably only get booted from his network. Snag something secret from the Army? Go to jail, go directly to jail. Going after a big paycheck by hacking the formulation for a new drug from MegaPharmaCo? Those bastards’ll kill ya. And, of course, the more sensitive something is, the better it is protected. Nobody is bothering to protect the coffee order for the canteen, but that drug formula? Yeah: locked up tighter than a gnat’s ass.

Repeat steps 2 & 3 as the DM dictates.

Why repeat? Maybe you have to open a series of doors for your team. Maybe you have to check several different data silos to find what you’re looking for. Maybe your target isn’t in the first robocab you hack to drive itself off a cliff. Maybe the DM’s a dick and wants to see you suffer. 

Combine steps 2 & 3 as the DM dictates.

Or maybe your DM is awesome and wants to save everyone some time. Maybe you’re sleeping with her. Whatevs, it’s all good! The DM can easily elect to combine these steps – even multiple iterations – into a single roll to get you there a little quicker.

Step 4: Achieve

Action: Do what you came here to do.
Difficulty: GM’s estimation.
Penalty: Consequences of failing to complete the mission.

This is you earning your paycheck. You may be stealing data, leaving data, altering video, opening doors to clear a path for your team, implanting a script, tapping a camera, crashing a pizza delivery drone, rerouting a jumbo jet, whatever floats your boat (and gets you paid). It’s going to be up to the DM to decide how hard it is to make that happen, especially after you made it this far!

Step 5: Exfiltrate

Action: Finalize and log off.
Difficulty: Small: Auto, Midsize: 5, Large: 10, Huge: 15. (GM’s estimation.)
Penalty: Physical dangers of leaving the access point, danger of exposure through traces in the target system, dangers from any remaining countermeasures.

You’re not out yet. You got your data, but you tripped a countermeasure and now you’re going to have to shoot your way out; or you are at a plaza in Madrid, but even then this may not be as easy as unplugging your rig and walking away. You may need to alter logs or adjust inventories in order to disguise the hack and to cover your tracks, or your team may be deep in a corporate archive with the item you need for your next hack in a satchel, looking for you to guide them out. Hell, the DM may run you through steps 2 & 3 again as you wend your way out. Good luck, Hacker!

Scripts

Scripts can be used to make things easier. A task that has been scripted can be performed faster and more accurately. Writing scripts to do simple and repetitive things is easy, complex scripts that automate decisions normally made by a human are hard. Bonuses are based on the how heavily the script is customized. If the target is a business, a generic ‘security defeat’ script might give a bonus of +2, the same script customized into BizOS might give a +4, and a script customized for a specific business might give a +6.

Scripts can be created, or acquired and customized, using the crafting rules (See Downtime Activities in the PH).

Countermeasures

The effects of countermeasures can range from inconvenient to deadly, making use of elements such as system ejection, headache-inducing blasts of light and noise, rig-scramblers, security alerts, automatic lockdowns, and backtracing. Countermeasures can be triggered by events such as an invalid logon ID or password, too much time connected to a network, too many scans, using an computer unknown to the network, and accessing a particular directory or file. And like physical traps, Hackers will get a a save DC to resist the affects of a triggered countermeasure.

(See the 5e Online Compendium section on traps.)

I Hacked It!

(Now what?)

Once you hack a device, you can make it do anything that is controlled by software. What you can not do by hacking is change something you have to touch, like pressing a button or turning a key.

When you hack a network, you have full control over its users, security, connections, etc. If the device is a machine or an electronic device, you can read and alter any of its settings or data, turn it on or off, and so on. If you hack vehicles or robots, you’ll need an interface to avoid penalties when directing them. It may be built in, or may have to be acquired or written.

And I’m spent.

There’s probably a good-sized supplement waiting to be written about how the Net works and how you hack it, but for the time being, there it is. This has been the code::2050 Quick-and-Dirty Guide to Hacking.

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Project 2050: The Hacker http://www.legendarypants.net/project-2050-the-hacker/ Fri, 07 Jul 2017 20:40:40 +0000 http://www.legendarypants.net/?p=1674

What would a near future ruleset be without a hacker character? Atypical, we say!

So, here are the rules for the “Hacker,” which is an archetype of Rogue:

Archetype: Hacker

The dwarf swore using the name of an ancient god of his people. He’d been detected, and he had a feeling they’d found his location before he busted their trace. He levered his enormous frame out of the reinforced chair in his comfy cave; if we was going to have a chance clear his drives, salvage what he could, and find a new lair, he had to move fast. He hated moving fast.

You have an affinity for the digital world and cyberspace seems as natural and as real an environment as your own neighborhood. Whether it’s liberating software, stealing sensitive data, or just bringing sites down to crash and burn, you’re always busy. You’ve focused on digital infiltration and theft, and have honed your skills to an art of heroic levels.

You gain the following features and benefits:

Computer Literate At level 3 when you choose the Hacker archetype, you gain proficiency with the Computers tool. If you already have this proficiency, you gain proficiency in a tool of your choice.

Additionally, you may use the bonus action granted by your Cunning Action to navigate a computer network, launch scripts, or perform Perception/Investigation checks when using a computer or Rig.

Finally, you gain proficiency in a computer language of your choice. You gain a new computer language proficiency at 9th, 13th, and 17th levels.

Cursing in frustration, the hacker drew her pistol and checked to make sure it was loaded. The intrusion had gone well, but she only had half the data they need, and one of her monitoring scripts showed corporate security in route. “Company coming!” she shouted to her team as she prepared to join them in fending off the soon-to-arrive security squad. “Tacticals!”

Hacker’s Rig At level 3, when you choose the Hacker archetype, you gain proficiency in the Hacker’s Rig tool and construct your first Hacker’s Rig. This portable device is a cobbled-together system of tweaked and modified computer parts specialized for running subversive computer scripts and breaking into secure systems.

When gaining this feature, you may elect to switch one of your Expertise skills to the Hacker’s Rig. Alternatively, you may choose Hacker’s Rig when gaining a new Expertise skill.

You may use your Hacker’s Rig proficiency instead of your Computers proficiency whenever your Rig is attached to the target device and is activated. For the purposes of latency, the Rig does not constitute an additional hop.

If your Rig is ever destroyed or lost, you must spend 24 hours constructing a new one at a cost of 150 gp per Rogue level.

The hacker wiped off his dripping blade and replaced it in the sheath hiding within his elegantly-cut suit. Stepping over the body of the half-orc guard, he sat at the desk and plugged his rig into the terminal jack. In a few seconds, he was in the network and ferreting its secrets. He looked at the guard and sighed. They never learned. Just because he preferred to fight in cyberspace didn’t mean he couldn’t fight in meatspace.

Research At level 9, if you have Net access, you may spend 10 minutes researching to grant up to 6 willing humanoids advantage on the next check of a skill of your choice. You may only choose one skill to affect for all of the targets, and a target may only have this advantage for one skill at a time. This advantage goes away after the target completes a short or long rest.

Jack In At level 13, working in a non-sensory world has become second-nature to your meatbrain. If you have a neural jack, it does not count toward your maximum cybernetic implants.

Multitasking At level 17, you have spent so much time doing two things at once that you’ve perfected it. On your turn for your Action, you may perform two actions as long as they are different. These actions must be completely different, and not simply the same action with a different target.

The hacker slammed back against the jersey barrier, butt dropping to the asphalt, panting hard. She yanked her rig out and thumbed the quickboot. “I’m not cut out for field work,” she mumbled, as a report from the machine pistol told her he was getting closer. She found the wireless connection she wanted and her fingers flew across her rig. More gunfire, and she winced; but her work focused her, calmed her nerves. Then she was through to her target and her script was launched. She waited, but not for long, only daring to peep around her cover after hearing the sound of the thug’s own car plowing into him doing 60. She smiled, satisfied. That was a handy script; she should sell copies…

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The F-Word: The Problem of Magic http://www.legendarypants.net/the-f-word-the-problem-of-magic/ http://www.legendarypants.net/the-f-word-the-problem-of-magic/#comments Wed, 05 Jul 2017 13:31:22 +0000 http://www.legendarypants.net/?p=1592

Magic. Ah, good old magic. What’s a Swords and Sorcery campaign without it? Whether it’s an enchanted sword, a mystical talisman, or a simple fireball spell, magic is the difference between an empire being destroyed by Sauron or the bubonic plague.

But what role should magic play in your world?

In fantasy literature, magic has been treated in a number of ways. And, since magic is essentially arational (as opposed to irrational), magic can be whatever the creator wants it to be. Some authors treat magic as a rare and fickle power, with wizards tapping into the unknown, often with unpredictable results. Others treat magic as a powerful tool that is well codified and structurally logical. However magic is treated, the one universal hallmark of magic is that it creates effects beyond what the average man or woman can create without its implementation.

When you set up a role-playing campaign, the rules are only going to cover so much. So, while you know how much damage your wizard’s magic missiles spell will cause, or know what creatures your vorpal sword can decapitate, or understand when your bardic inspiration is… inspiring… there are a lot of open ended questions. Do peasants want to burn you at the stake, for fear of “evil forces”, or are they going to draw up a contract for you to stop by every three days to create water for their irrigation system? Is magic itself a simple, codified system that is learned like any advanced college course, or is it madmen staring into the void, pulling unseen levers bent by the force of their will? Does magic enable young wizards to master any power at will, or do mature disciples of magic unlock a few, limited powers after decades of study? Answering these questions for your campaign world can make your campaign feel more realistic and engaging, and draw your group further into the story—but the wrong answers can break a game.

Three elements of magic that guide its treatment in a fantasy setting are how mythical, mysterious, and powerful it is. While there is a strong correlation between these three elements, they are independent aspects, and each is a continuum between two poles. Understanding how these factors impact your setting, and being conscious of how you weave them into a narrative, will give your world more flavor, a stronger identity, and a greater sense of internal consistency.

Myth vs Mundane

The question of “Myth vs Mundane” is a question of how common the use of magic is in a fantasy world. Is it harnessed to solve every day problems, a sort of alternative technology? Or is it so rare that common people whisper about warlocks and demons, although only the most privileged ever see them? Regardless of the mechanics of magic use in the system you use, a world where magic is a rare thing, only harnessed by the rich, powerful, or privileged, looks very different than a world where magic is ubiquitous, where peasants hire phantom steeds to get their wares to market and shopkeepers use magic brooms, minor illusions, and magical wards to make sure that they have the best shop in the district.

There are lots of great examples of the treatment of Myth in fantasy literature. In The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley creates an England impacted by magic but ruled by the familiar laws of the mundane, where beings like Merlin and Morgaine have little influence on the day-to-day lives of the peasantry. On the other hand, in Piers Anthony’s A Spell For Chameleon, the protagonist, Bink, is exiled from his homeland because he is the only person who doesn’t have some sort of magic power. And in the Harry Potter series, by J. K. Rowling, magic is at once mundane in the wizarding world and mythical in the world of muggles, giving the reader the chance to experience both dynamics.

By its very nature, magic is going to have a profound impact on a fantasy world. But the scope and scale of that impact is up to you. Consider keeping in mind how common magic is when looking at types of government, laws surrounding magic, commerce, trades, and every day life. Every day magic can easily break historical social models, which can be a lot of fun (a la, the world of Harry Potter). Making that feel real for your players, however, will take a lot of work on the front end—but can be immensely rewarding in the game.

Mystery vs Technology

The “Mystery vs Technology” scale is a question of what metaphysical role magic fulfills in your campaign setting. Every game is going to have rules that govern magic, as will any story. Those rules can be heavily codified or loosely defined, and the way you treat those rules can have a profound impact on the flavor of magic in your campaign. Mechanically speaking, there is very little difference between a fireball spell and an incendiary grenade; both blow up and burn things close to them, with predictable results. On the other hand, a magical sword imbued with a purpose and an ego might have a slew of unknown powers, and may decide on its own to just stop working if its demands aren’t met—something truly outside the realm of simple technology.

When creating your campaign world, there are many inspirations from which you can draw. In the Harry Potter books, magic was grouped into specific categories and discrete spells and potions had particular effects, all of which required precise practice and achieved predictable results. David Eddings, in The Belgariad, created a world where the Will and the Word allowed a magic user to shape the world with their imagination, not with a specific set of magical skills. Both were very rich in the “Myth” element, but crafting a setting that recreates their treatments of magic would be vey different.

When deciding on the question of “Mystery vs Technology,” consider how magic is structured in your system. In a heavily codified system like D&D, you can add mystery by eliminating access to spells and magical items, making non-human creatures seeem rare and other-worldly, and changing parameters to keep the players wondering. In an open ended system like Mage: The Ascension, you can add structure by limiting types of mages, imposing concrete spell effects, and making the consequences of unfettered magic use more common and profound. The sense of mystery that you create in your campaign, however, should ultimately be decided upon by you, not dictated by the rules of the system.

Power vs Enhancement

When it comes to “Power vs Enhancement”, the question that you, as the GM, have to ask is how much of an impact will magic have in the world. Let’s face it: magic is power. In any sufficiently powerful magical system, the use of magic will enable practitioners to defeat entire armies, replace kings with simulacrums, and bend nations to their will. The logical end of an unfettered expansion of magical power is a magocracy. On the other hand, a system of magic that enhances what can be done, rather than dominates the tableau, can provide richness and beauty to a world without destroying its balance.

In the Dragon Prince trilogy, Melanie Rawn creates a fantastic and compelling world in which magic is limited in both scope and scale, used not to solve problems but to influence outcomes. Micheal Moorcock treats magic very differently, as the anti-hero Elric singluarly lays waste to entire nations with the power of Stormbringer, his cursed sword. Although they had very different ways of treating the power of magic, they both wove a vivid, engaging tapestry for the reader to explore.

The direction you take in your campaign is up to you, but it’s valuable to weigh the impact of the power of magic. If it is too weak, a spellcaster will be insufficient to contribute to the party. Too strong and a wizard will be the only effective party member. For power, the question becomes what specific powers magic grants, as well as how much of a numerical effect those powers have. If high level fighters are getting a bonus to hit and damage, while high level wizards are reshaping reality, there will come a point where a good GM will have to search for some way to balance the scales or risk the world spiraling out of control.

The “F-word”

In the end, though, the final measure of how you treat magic in your fantasy campaign should come down to the F-word.

No, not that one—I’m talking about “Fun”.

Magic isn’t just a set of statistics and powers on a character sheet. It’s more than a list of spells in a player’s guide. In a fantasy setting, magic will be a living, breathing force, and your campaign should reflect that. But, most importantly, it should make the game fun to play. And that means making sure your game is balanced for all of your players.

However you choose to conceptualize magic, consider the impact that it will have your party as a whole. A wizard who can single handedly fight a balrog, while the rest of the party runs for cover, may be fun to play—but he won’t be fun to play with. Similarly, being unable to use any of your powers for fear of being burned at the stake may make a witch irrelevant in your campaign. And treating magic as an alternate technology may work for some campaigns and feel flat in others. Regardless of these choices, you should make sure that it works for all of you players, and allows everyone to feel like they are providing an equal yet unique contribution to the party as a whole.

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Project 2050: Cybernetics http://www.legendarypants.net/project-2050-cybernetics/ http://www.legendarypants.net/project-2050-cybernetics/#comments Sat, 01 Jul 2017 11:51:46 +0000 http://www.legendarypants.net/?p=1601

“Are you staring at my headgear, Stan?”

In the future, we’ll all have super cool robot human bodies. With laser eyes and chainsaw hands.

Bzzz! Bzzz!

Okay, we may be a ways off from that yet, but hopefully not too far (roughly 33-ish years).

Cybernetic implants are a staple of the Cyberpunk genre, and a big part of Scifi in general. In Neuromancer, Molly had a slew of neat tricks from implanted goggles to embedded razors under her nails. Another character had holographic emitters implanted into his body. Neat! In a wider sense, though, we see Bucky with a metal arm in Captain America, Geordi sporting some sort of tiara on his face in Star Trek: TNG, and then there’s Steve Austin, the 6 Million Dollar Man.

In Project 2050, we want to embrace cybernetics with two snaps up. However, we want to make sure they are presented in a balanced way. This is actually a trickier proposition than one might expect, because there is already a system in 5e for items enhancing a character’s ability: magic items. Enchanted gear is the medieval fantasy version of advanced cybernetics. In 2050, magic items will still exist, so we have a bit of a quandary: cybernetics must be useful enough to need, but not so good that magic items become pointless. I think we’ve got a handle on it, but only time will tell.

The Cybernetic Augmentation System

Dad and I went back and forth (I know, big surprise) about how to handle cybernetics. When we were first hammering out OSRIC/2050, we were very adamant that technology and magic were mutually exclusive phenomena. That meant that a glut of cybernetic implants in a person would severely limit what they could do with magic. It was a neat concept, but in the end, it felt very onerous, especially for a supposedly campaign-neutral set of rules.

However, all was not lost, as the rules and dynamics from those original hashings evolved directly into the system I’m going to present here (and add to the Project 2050 SRD). And yes, it is a system. I can imagine what the little diagram will look like on a 2050 character sheet…

Here’s how it’s gonna work:

Cybernetic implants are self-sufficient machines with internal power sources and computers. While they will link to the brain (more on that in a sec), they will not be easily accessed externally; you’ll have to use maintenance access ports surely located in inconvenient places. In 2050, hacking and digital security is always a concern, so good cybernetic equipment will be “dumb” enough to not connect to the Net. And really, why does your mechanical arm need to check the weather anyways?

When I say “link to the brain,” what I mean is that there is a neurological implant component to all cybernetic augmentations. These implants aren’t necessarily in the brain itself, but they are connected to the nervous system, and allow the brain to talk to the augmentation. For example, a cybernetic arm will be interfaced to a cluster of nerves in the shoulder. The wearer does something with his arm, his brain sends signals like it was the original meat arm, and the neuro-interface translates the movement into SAGaN for the arm. Meanwhile, various sensors in the arm pass back information to the brain that it interprets as arm position, movement speed, sensations on the skins, and so on. Easy-peasy.

Cybernetic limb and organ replacements are common in the year 2050. They’re used to restore full functionality after illness or injury. However, ‘normal’ cybernetic implants only restore normal function, they do not provide enhanced functions or abilities. There are cybernetics with enhanced capabilities, but under under normal operating conditions, they function like the normal limbs and organs they replaced. Unless and until you activate the enhanced function, your enhanced cyber arm doesn’t make you stronger, your enhanced cyber legs don’t make you faster, and your enhanced cyber bladder doesn’t give you super peeing.

Cybernetic devices are powered by onboard micro reactors that put out enough energy to power the device for normal daily operation and to charge a capacitor that will allow use of an enhanced function twice a day. Twice a day your cyber eye can see in the dark or zoom out to telescopic distances, your cyber arm can give you super strength, your cyber legs can run fast, your cyber pee can cut steel plate, etc. Each enhanced function use will take one charge from the onboard capacitor, which will require a short rest to recharge from that single use. (This may get changed to a long rest to recharge both, but playtesting will determine that).

The downside to these micro reactors is they emit electromagnetic radiation, sort of like a cellphone that’s inside you and always transmitting. Individually the signals are weak enough not to harm the body; but the effect is cumulative, and several implants can cause issues. To reflect this, we have the following equation:

Max cybernetic implants = 2 + CON modifier.

Simple.

You can exceed this limit, but you probably shouldn’t. For every implant beyond your max, you will gain a level of exhaustion every 24 hours. Here’s a reminder on what happens as your exhaustion level goes up:

Exhaustion Levels

LevelPenalty
1Disadvantage on ability checks
2Speed is halved
3Disadvantage on attack rolls and saving throws
4HP maximum is halved
5Speed is reduced to 0
6You're dead, carrot cake

A long rest reduces the exhaustion level by 1. Yeah, this means that if you want to live dangerously, you could theoretically get away with having one implant over your max as long as you take a long rest every 24 hours. But, if you miss that even once (and a good DM will make sure that happens), you’ll be on a slippery slope right to death.

And no, you can’t just switch them off or remove them when you please. The micro reactors are constantly active and the neuro-interface is permanent. They’re going to produce energy – and EM radiation – regardless of what the implant is doing.

Death by cybernetic-induced exhaustion means that only a True Resurrection or a Reincarnate can bring you back. If you’re brought back this way, the new body is without implants (but you get all your original limbs back, so there’s that).

Here is the ‘so far’ list of cybernetic implants. This is absolutely not an exhaustive list, and any fan of cyberpunk will be able to come up with a half-dozen things to add without even trying. It’s a start and a demonstration and we encourage DMs and players to share their thoughts.

Cybernetic Augmentations
NameCostChargesEffect
Mk II Eyeball1500 gp2Spend 1 charge to grant advantage on Perception and Investigate checks for 10 minutes or grant 30/60 Darkvision for 1 hour. If you have two of these installed, you may spend a charge from each to grant the skill advantages for 30 minutes or 30/60 Darkvision for 3 hours.
Intracranial Processor1500 gp2Spend 1 charge to grant advantage on Intelligence or Wisdom checks for 10 minutes. If you have two installed, you may spend a charge from each to grant these advantages for 30 minutes.
Powerplant2000 gp2The powerplant's charges may be used as charges for other cybernetic augmentations you have installed.
Cyber Leg1750 gp2Spend 1 charge to increase speed by 10 feet or jump distance by 10 feet. You may also spend a charge to grant advantage on Strength checks requiring leg-strength for 10 minutes. If you have two of these legs, you may spend 1 charge from each to increase your speed by 30 feet or increase jump distance by 30 feet, or grant advantage for Strength checks requiring leg-strength for 30 minutes.
Cyber Arm2000 gp2Spend 1 charge to grant advantage on all attacks which can use STR as the modifying attribute until the start of your next turn. You may also grant advantage on Strength checks which require arm-strength for 10 minutes. If you have two of these arms installed, you may spend a charge from each to grant advantage on Strength checks requiring arm-strength for 30 minutes or impose disadvantage on Escape attempts for a target that you are grappling.
Reflex Wiring2000 gp2Spend 1 charge to grant advantage on all attacks that can use DEX as the modifying attribute until the start of your next turn. You may also spend 1 charge to grant advantage on Dexterity checks for ten minutes. If you have two installed, you may spend a charge from each to grant Dexterity check advantage for 30 minutes.
Cultural Database1750 gp2Spend 1 charge to grant advantage on Charisma checks for 10 minutes or gain fluency in one language for 1 hour. If you have two of these installed, you may spend a charge from each to grant Charisma check advantage for 30 minutes or gain fluency in one language for 3 hours.
Subdermal Armoring2250 gpN/AYour AC can't be less than 16, regardless of what kind of armor you are wearing.
Skeletal Reinforcement2250 gpN/A+1 AC. Take 2d6 less fall damage.
Networked Power Conduit1250 gpN/AWith this installed, a charge on any augmentation can be used for any other augmentation.
Neural Jack750 gpN/AWith this installed, a character may directly plug a computer into an interface at the base of the skull. While connected, the character has advantage on all computer-related tasks.

 

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Weekly Dump: Project Arcana Phase I Update http://www.legendarypants.net/weekly-dump-project-arcana-phase-i-update/ Tue, 27 Jun 2017 14:42:07 +0000 http://www.legendarypants.net/?p=1565

Ok, so a quick update on Project Arcana Phase I (this week’s focus for me is the 2050 Cybernetics rules, but I need to get this out there).

Dad is crunching hard on finalizing the spell lists. We are nearly done with that, hopefully by the end of the week. Here’s what Phase I will include:

  • Descriptions of the schools and their forms
  • Complete reorganized spell lists of the vanilla spells
  • The suggested spells (from the articles) formatted in spell block fashion
  • The OGL license letting anyone have-at with it

Once all that sweet sweet content is put together, edited, and finalized, we’ll package it into a PDF. That PDF will be available, free, here on the site. I’m hesitant to give a timeline for that, but I think I can get it up and ready by the end of next week. We’re both new to PDF publishing, so it’s tough to gauge how long it’ll take.

In other news, and this is where you come in: We need a real name for Project Arcana. PA was always a working title, but we need something better now that we’re going to start actually pushing and publishing real documents. By Phase II’s publication, we want the name done.

So, make some suggestions, either in the comments here, on Facebook, or through our contact page. We’ll take a few we like, push a poll, and pick a winner.

If your suggestion becomes our new title, we’ll send you some SWEET sweet LP swag (better than just a patch, I swear).

I’m really looking forward to hearing from you guys about this.

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