Getting Back To It.

Now that most everyone I know is vaccinated and the world is going back to normal I am able to restart my Shadow World campaign. This is less of a continuous adventure and more of a ongoing testing campaign, but my players expect, and I think welcome, random rule changes that occur almost every session (“Inter-office Rule Memos). In the past, that has meant having all of their spell lists replaced with new ones, losing skills that I deleted from my core rules, abrupt level changes and other pivots that they have learned to expect and provide feedback.

I have them running through Chapter 4 & 5 of Legends of Shadow World a few more times and then they are heading to the city of Nontataku to test out my new module. They have been to the city before, but just passed through on their way to Shade. It’s been a long time since they have done real urban adventuring and I’m looking forward to the change in environment and to stretch my DMing skills with more in-game social interactions and political intrigue. The Alliance is in town and making a play for the city!

A few years ago, I decided to focus more on blogging about content rather than rules, but I have 3 fairly major changes that I’m implementing and have been adopted in my SWARM rules. I’m going to see how it goes, and will probably blog more about them as things develop.

  1. Stats as Skills. I started working on this back in 2017, and had the players make stat checks on a few regular items: feats of strength, recall and correlation and poison/disease RRs. Over the subsequent couple of years, I’ve expanded the use of stats in the game and happy with the result. I’ve been reading some Grognardia blogs about the use of stats in D&D that coincides with some RM conversations about eliminating stats and just use bonuses. I am in the camp of increasing the use and utility of stats rather than eliminating them.
  2. Stat “Nerf”. There was some comments about the utility of low stats over on the D&D blogs: for example, a low intelligence may make the player immune to charm spells or ignore Illusions. I played around with some ideas for these types of benefits for all of the RM stats, but I admit I wasn’t completely satisfied with the results. However this led me to the conclusion that my player’s average stats in general are too high. Most have every stat above 75! So I’m trying something new: players are given 600 points to assign to the 10 stats. They still roll for Potential stats, but that’s starts them slightly above average and makes them think long and hard about stat levels. Given the increase use of the stat score for action checks and the added utility of historic “dump” skills like memory, the players really think about things. Even with a 30 or 40 stat score, they aren’t getting negative modifiers, but it does change the stat as skill roll outcomes.
  3. Magical Languages. For those that have followed the perpetually evolving Project BASiL know that I allow casters access to all of the spell “realms”. However, within some of the realms are different classes of spells: for example, Essence has Minor, Lesser and Greater “Paths”. This somewhat mimics the base list structure of RM and creates cost obstacles so players can’t learn the highest powered lists of each Realm without concerted DP allocation. To accentuate that further, I created qualifying skills, pre-requisites, that needed to be developed in tandem with the higher Paths. In the end I found this cumbersome and didn’t like to add skills that only had one purpose and no real in-game functionality. To simplify I decided to expand the magical language list and assign them to various spell lists. This had the added benefit of working well! In general, Essence lists now have a required magical language needed to cast the spells. Some lists can be cast with different languages, and some languages can add bonuses or other benefits to casting. Like rare spell lists, the casters are motivated to track down and learn other magical languages!

I’m looking forward to finalizing my Shadow World ruleset, but a part of me feels like the endless tinkering with the rule toolbox is a feature and not a distraction.

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