Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Undead Strike Back: Turning Clerics

Did anyone ever use this rule: 
When a cleric meets an undead creature that is beyond his/her powers to turn/command, then the cleric must roll--on a d20--a number equal to or greater than the Hit Dice of the undead +1/level the cleric is deficient of being able to affect said undead species.

For example, a first level cleric encounters a vampire: HD 9 (I think) and unaffected by clerics less than 6th level,*  9 + (6-1) =  14.  Therefore Archie the Acolyte needs to roll a 14 or higher or be turned/commanded by Count D.  This Rule also applies to Ponce the Paladin.
Me neither.

* Crunchier AD&D folks might notice a discrepancy in these numbers from the AD&D standard--or they might not, I really can't say.  If there is a discrepancy it's 'cuz I'm referencing the HackmasterPlayer's Handbook "Table 12K: Turning Undead" for the undead turning probabilities shown here because, well, the Hackmaster books are closer at hand.  I mean c'mon--my friggin' AD&D PHB is all the way over there on that bookshelf.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Unified Field Theory of Wizdom

Yesterday I discussed a slight cosmetic change to the wisdom attribute by altering the name to Wizdom; a step which strips it of off-target real world associations--sagacity, sound judgment, etc.--as well as shameful definitions from the gaming milieu--can anyone out there say "connection to a deity" or "strength of spirit" without developing a nervous twitch in their eyelid?  Today I intend to take things a step further; I will refine the very structure of what has long been the sorriest attribute in order to shore it up and make it logically sound and significant to game play.  Yes, I'm feeling full of myself; what of it?  So, here are the parameters:
  • Wizdom must apply to the character, not the player;
  • Wizdom has to reasonably provide game mechanics that are useful to all character classes;
  • Wizdom must, using the same logic that makes the attribute useful to all classes, also  provide a reasonable explanation for why it should be the prime requisite for cleric's; and
  • Wizdom, if possible, should encompass the various game mechanics commonly associated with the Wisdom attribute throughout the Olde Schoole gaming community.
You still with me?  Good.  Without further ado, I present to you...

Wizdom, n: a measure of a character's capacity to focus or devote fully his or her mental energies toward a task, vocation, cause, code of conduct, belief system, or divine/malign force or being.

As such, Wizdom defines a character's capacity for sustained, intense focus of his inner forces.  In modern parlance, it would encompass one's internal motivation, passion, and drive; guts, mojo, and heart (in the wholehearted sense, not the magnanimous sense) would fall under the Wizdom umbrella.  It's that stuff that gets you out of bed in the morning and compels you to [CLICHE ALERT] be the best that you can be, give it 110%, keep your eyes on the prize, yada yada.  This is not to say that a highly wizdomed (wize) character will be an aggro-"Eye of the Tiger"-chanting d-bag; one could just as easily be a serene Buddhist monk on the road to enlightenment, a stoic warrior, or a sly burglar.   And while this focus makes Wizdom useful to the success of any character class, which class would most obviously benefit from exceptional capacity for devotion?  That's right, baby; a wize cleric will be much better equipped to impress his Deity that he is highly devoted to the cause and is willing and able to bring acclaim to Her name.

OK, how does this manifest itself in game terms, you ask?  Let us count the ways:

  1. Resist mind affecting magics: Intense devotion of the psyche gives wize characters a profound sense of self, making it harder for outside forces to corrupt said self.  Thus, they are awarded a bonus to saving throws against enchantment/charm spells and any effort to possess the character in mind or body or otherwise cause aberrations to this sense of self. 
  2. Endure physical/mental suffering:  Related to #1 above, the wize have advanced willpower and thus are better equipped to endure unpleasant physical forces such as torture, exhaustion, fear, etc.  One's constitution or strength will determine the actual threshold of suffering; wiz determines how well they keep their spirit intact in the face of extreme suffering.
  3. Perform under stress: Capacity of concentration and focus on achieving goals would also give Wize characters a bonus to perform tasks under duress.  For example, Bart the Thief is trying to open a locked door to escape from a voracious gelatinous cube that is hurdling toward him at top speed.  His Cool J determines that Bart will suffer a  penalty for performing under such extreme circumstances.  Were Bart gifted with a high wizdom score, the Cool J might allow him to apply his wizdom bonus to his dice roll.  The wize would therefore be much more likely to be clutch performers while unwize characters would tend to be choke-artists. 
  4. Efficient learning:  Those characters able to better focus on their work are driven to achieve success and will thus be more efficient and effective in their studies/practice of said skills than the dude with loads of natural talent but little personal drive.  Think of the athletes who lack the speed or size to compete in their sport but manage, through sheer force of will, to excel while more naturally gifted athletes sometimes fall prey to off-court/field/ice distractions (drugs, crime, acting/singing/modelling careers) that ultimately detract from their on-court performance.  This absolutely makes more sense than giving exceptionally strong fighters an experience advantage and you know it!   
  5. Extra spells for clerics: The Divine forces, in acknowledgment of your devotion, kick a few extra spells your way every morning. 
  6. Increased focus of the senses: I didn't really have this in mind when I started this essay, but for you late-edition types, it wouldn't take too much extrapolation to include perception in wizdom's horn o' plenty.
Implementing all six of these might, ultimately, be too much for one attribute to handle; Wizdom's stock value would skyrocket from dump-stat for non-clerics to everyone's 2nd favorite ability, possibly disrupting the established Attribute Hierarchy and causing a character generation crisis on par with the 6-sider shortage of 1981.   DM discretion will, of course, dictate the full effects of Wizdom, but I hope that I've shown adequately that with one reasonably concrete definition Wizdom, or mental focus, could measure success in the numerous spheres of Wisdom without stooping to vagaries and non sequiturs, and that is all that I hoped to do. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Wisdom Revised Part 1: The Nose Job

As almost none of you might recall, some time ago I went on a tirade about the poorly conceived wisdom attribute in D&D et. al.  The definitions of wisdom in every version of D&D of which I am knowledgeable--which includes many of the recent "retro clones" but none of the post-Gygax era TSR/WoTC/Hasbro editions--do not, in my opinion, do an adequate job of defining an attribute that stands on solid ground compared with the other five abilities.  So in this two part post, I propose a significant remodel of the ol' "Prime requisite of clerics" that I hope will turn the dilapidated shanty of wisdom into a structurally and functionally sound work of art; one that is useful to non-clerics and actually relevant to the relationship between the religiously inclined and the divine powers that bolster their existence.

Since none of us are pretending that the Wisdom attribute should be a measurement of a character's philosophic or scientific learning--that, Mr. Player, is your job--my first act in the wisdom re-design is to give us a little room to maneuver.  Which is to say, I'd like to alter the terminology--just a bit, mind you; we old schoolers like some change, but it has to be bear enough semblance of the original to fit into our established structure.  Since "wisdom" has distracting real world significance that does not jibe with game mechanics, I propose to you the fresh, 21st century term: Wizdom.  Whaddaya' think?

To get to this newfangled yet familiar term, I took a cue from the food additives industry; just as "creme" and "chick'n" evoke an image of what we are eating but are removed in substance from the source material, wizdom provides pleasing familiarity with our gaming roots and acknowledgment of some sort of mental trait, but by merely swapping the "s" for a "z" we are freed from the baggage associated with the standard English word.  Yet unlike cream manque or poultry's soy-based doppelganger, wizdom, I believe, shall improve upon the original; providing a more satisfying, grounded gaming attribute--concrete in scope yet delightful to the palate.  Enjoy!