D&D the CCG: Progress and the Magic System
Progress has moved along pretty well here with my D&D the CCG project, which I am thinking of renaming "The Deck of Many Heroes". For readers new to the blog, here's the basics. I am working on a card-based fantasy role-playing game. The idea is to have no big rulebooks, and instead all rules and character information will be on cards. A PC will be defined by a simple character record card and a number of other cards with feats, skills, boons, and powers.
(For the record, I am aware of the Miniature Heroes project on Kickstarter, thank you. I have not yet seen the card system for that, but I am planning to pick it up as soon as I can.)
There are a lot of things I like about 4e D&D, and a number of those things make appearances in my card-based system. First, the Core Skills. I have stolen these whole-cloth from 4e and I am perfectly okay with it. I think they work very well for resolving just about any non-combat action, and even many actions in-combat.
I have also stolen the concept of "Power Sources" for PCs. For those not familiar, in 4e D&D, fighters, rogues, and rangers have the "martial" power source, clerics and paladins have the "divine" power source, wizards and sorcerers and bards are "arcane", and druids and shamans are "primal". There are also the "psionic" and "shadow" power sources. My system uses Martial, Arcane, Divine, and Primal as the core "classes" for PCs, and a player can use the options available through cards to build the type of character they want to play.
I've included a number of Old-School nods in the system. The first being a random attribute generation system. The standard attributes are all there: Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. Instead of the familiar 3-18 (3d6) range, I have opted for a 1-6 scale (1d6), and the attribute's score is also the modifier that applies to D20 rolls for skill checks, attack rolls, etc. Character generation is 1d6 in order. Each of the four class types have minimum attribute requirements. So far I have yet to roll up a character that was unable to be at least a Martial class (requires at least a 4 in either STR, CON, or DEX) though if you had all 6 attribute rolls of 3 and under, you would not qualify for any class. That being said, it should be fairly easy to select a race that gives you a bonus to one of your attributes that would allow you to qualify for something.
In the Old-School style, the races are limited to the originals: human, dwarf, halfling, elf, half-elf, half-orc, and gnome. No dragonborn or tieflings or shardminds or wilden here. This is classic fantasy.
I am also planning on using Hit Dice for determining monster hit points and general toughness.
I have also included a number of things I've taken from my Dragonquest days. Chief among these is the use of experience points to purchase ranks in different skills, as opposed to a flat level-based system in which all of a characters abilities improve at the threshold of a certain number of experience points. While I am sure that the point-buy system will encourage a certain degree of munchkinism and min-maxing, I think it also enables, in this case, the capacity to develop a player's ideal fantasy archetype, or a Jack of all Trades, or whatever else.
Also included from my Dragonquest days is random background generation, which determines starting wealth and (spendable) experience points, and Ye Olde Bogey Table, which is also part of character generation to give a character a number of random quirks. The best part of being human is getting four rolls on the bogey table. Often those rolls alone could do a lot to determine what type of character you would wind up creating.
I have established the basics for combat: weapons and armor. Martial characters have access to skills that grant bonuses to hit and to damage, Arcane characters have spells, etc. It's a fairly straightforward system: roll d20, add relevant modifiers (from your character's cards) and try to beat opponent's Armor Class. Damage on a hit is a dice roll based on weapon (d4 for daggers, d8 for longswords, etc). The system does not require a battlemat and minis but could support that style if preferred.
I have finally come to the biggest road-block of them all: the magic system. I suspect that this is the most difficult part of developing most fantasy RPGs. Keeping things balanced is a big part of it, of course. Coming up with enough spells to satisfy player demands for variety is another. What I want is to come up with several spells that have old-school flavor, can become stronger as they are ranked up through the expenditure of experience points, and are also modular enough to be used creatively by players while covering numerous bases. For example, there are several spells that are basically deviations of levitate object (mage hand, unseen servant, etc), that could all be covered by a single spell, cleverly used.
I want to avoid the Vancian nonsense of a strict limit per day on number of spells, but I also am not a huge fan of Dragonquest's life-draining magic system, either. I do like the Dragon Age RPG "dragon dice" stunt mechanic system, but it doesn't mesh at all with my d20 Core Mechanic. So, what I am going with at the moment consists of arcane spellcasters being able to cast basic spells at will, and other spells have a limit per day that increases with Ranks. It's all a pretty big enigma to wrap my brain around, and I'll be perusing numerous old-school tomes for some magical inspiration. If anybody has any suggestions or comments, I'd love to hear them.