Monday, February 25, 2019

The Hârnic Sandbox: Another Twenty Questions

These questions, proposed by Brendan S. back in 2012, followed Jeff Rients' twenty questions for explicating a campaign setting. Brendan's focus more on rules clarifications. The answers here pertain to the sandbox campaign that's just begun on Roll20. Learn more here.

  1. Ability scores generation method?  Roll 3d6 in order for Str, Int, Wis, Dex, Con, and Cha; after selecting a class some scores may be lowered to raise a prime requisite. Conditions apply: read the fine print for your class. There is also a hopeless character clause.
  2. How are death and dying handled?  When your character's hit points fall to zero, they are incapacitated, unconscious, and life is slipping away. (I'm using "they" as a gender neutral singular pronoun.) When it's their turn to act in the subsequent round, make a saving throw against Death Ray. (Any damage taken in the meantime is applied as a penalty to the roll, which in some cases may make success impossible.) On a successful save, the character remains as is;  on a failed save, the character dies. If the PC is still alive, they can make another saving throw against Death Ray on each subsequent round, but at a cumulative penalty of -1. As long as the PC has not failed a saving throw, allies may apply first aid or magical healing to bring the PC's hit point above 0, at which point they are no longer dying. The take-away here is, if your allies are close and provide help, you have a fair chance of surviving.
  3. What about raising the dead?  A 7th-level cleric can help you out, but it'll cost you — and not just gold! Apply at any major temple in a large settlement. Note that for philosophical reasons, the Sindarin (elfs) aren't big on recalling their fallen comrades from the beyond. There are, of course, exceptions.
  4. How are replacement PCs handled?  Your replacement PC will be integrated as soon as they are created — literally the next round, if you're that fast. I recommend Ram's random Basic D&D character generator as the perfect cure for that inopportune mid-session fatality. Alternatively, if you have been grooming a retainer, they can immediately become your new PC.
  5. Initiative: individual, group, or something else? Group, except in special situations.
  6. Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?  When you roll a natural 20 to-hit, your attack is successful (assuming the target can be damaged with the weapons you wield) and inflicts maximum damage. On a natural 1 to-hit, you miss your target and have a -2 penalty to all actions and attacks until the end of the next round while you recover from the fumble.
  7. Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?   Helms shall be sundered: lose your helm to avoid taking damage from an opponent's physical attack. You can decide after damage is rolled. You are stunned for 1d4 rounds. Shields also work this way, but without the stunning. Magical helms and shields that are sundered/splintered are irreparable. I know, it sucks, but it probably saved your life! Obviously this won't work against a pixie's dagger, a bee's sting, or a snake bite: it has to be an attack that could conceivably splinter a shield. Only metal helms qualify.
  8. Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?  It depends.  If you’re fighting a Great Wyrm or a Cloud Giant, it should be no problem.  If all your allies are paired off against similarly sized humanoid opponents, the actual target of your shot will be determined randomly.
  9. Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?  You will sometimes need to run, which means you will want to be as unencumbered as is reasonably possible. Plate mail armour is great on the battlefield but may be a liability in the dungeon — just sayin'!
  10. Level-draining monsters: yes or no?  Yes, but you don't actually lose experience points.  Attacks by certain monsters may cause the character to gain one or more negative levels. If the subject has at least as many negative levels as Hit Dice, he or she dies. Each negative level gives a creature the following penalties: -1 penalty on attack rolls, saving throws, ability checks; loss of 4 hit points; and -1 to effective level (for determining the power, duration, and other details of spells or special abilities). In addition, a spellcaster loses one spell, which is always the highest one they have prepared. Negative levels can be removed through rest and recuperation over a long period or through the intervention of a high-level cleric.
  11. Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?  Unless you're already at 0 hit points, it will be fairly rare to save or die — always assuming one doesn't do anything absurd (deliberately drinking poison, for example).
  12. How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?  We use the "encumbrance by armour type" system. 
  13. What’s required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time?  You'll need to get out of danger (or the dungeon, or whatever) and into some kind of safe haven, consult a trainer, and spend one game week mastering your new skills. Clerics and elves acquire new spells according to the normal rules (see p. X11), whereas magic-users only acquire new spells by finding them or researching them.
  14. What do I get experience for?  Treasure recovered and spent, defeating foes, exploring/discovering strange lands and secrets, achieving personal goals, carousing. Also: writing session reports or otherwise representing the experience in art, song, dance, etc.
  15. How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?  A combination; much depends on the circumstances. In dungeon settings, I'll assume you are always on the lookout for traps.
  16. Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?  (A) Not discouraged but not required and (b) more or less by the book. Retainers are useful to guard your stuff and your person.  If you want to pass as gentlefolk, you will certainly need at least one such servitor.  Their morale will depend in part on your PC’s Charisma score.  Be discerning in your treatment of retainers for your enemies will almost certainly attempt to bribe or subvert them.
  17. How do I identify magic items?  You may be able to pay someone typically, a sage or some other specialist —  to do it for you.  Alternatively, you can experiment cautiously with the item.
  18. Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?  There are no magical emporia (Wands ‘R Us?) or anything like that, but you may come across rare individuals who can sell you such items, or provide them in return for a valuable service.
  19. Can I create magic items? When and how?  At name level, clerics, elves, and magic-users can attempt to produce magic items. Unless someone is paying you, you will need a stronghold, followers, and considerable wealth to undertake the process. Success is never guaranteed. 
  20. What about splitting the party?  Sure, if you think it’s a good idea ... but see the answer to question 2 above.

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