Indistinguishable From Technology

So here’s the thing about D&D: it makes no sense. None. Don’t get me wrong, I like it and all, but the world as presented is completely wrong-wrong-wrongity-wrong, and the new Pathfinder setting (much though I enjoy it) has done nothing to change that.

You wanna know why?  One word: magic.

Magic in D&D is reasonably common, which is bad enough, but what’s worse is that it’s reliable.  If you cast magic missile more than once, the only difference between castings is precisely how much damage you’ll do, and even that will vary only within strict limits.  Which is bad enough.

Where magic gets really bad, though, is in the utility stuff.  Don’t tell me that a world that has fireball lacks, say, a spell to keep food from spoiling, a spell to make a roof more weathertight, or a spell to keep bugs out.  And given that even the smallest town is likely to have a person who can at least use level 1 spells, life in a D&D universe should not look much at all like the pseudo-medieval setting it generally defaults to.

I mean, consider continual flame.  A magic item that can cast it at will would cost 10,800 gp and take 11 days to make; it produces items (gravel-sized stones would be great) that appear to burn but need no fuel or oxygen and never go out.  And then the city that made it could have streetlights for the cost of whatever they’re mounted on, requiring no fuel or maintenance, and easily replaced if stolen.  And could start exporting “flaming” stones for a little over the cost of shipping…assuming anyone could be coerced into buying them.  Everyone in town could have all the light they needed, and trust me when I say that that mere fact is enough to make a lot more work and production possible. 

How about teleportation circle? It costs 1000 gold to inscribe, and the circle’s only 10 feet in diameter.  More to the point, you need a 17th level caster for it.  But you can make it permanent, and then you have a circle big enough to drive a largish wagon into that will send your cargo to the destination instantly.  I can see a wizard retiring from adventuring and going around to cities and large towns, offering them teleportation circles to other places for, say, a couple months’ worth of room and board.  It’d only take a decade or two before a whole continent would have a transport network that would put the US Interstate system to shame.  Pretty soon people would start doing it for destinations inside large cities, and then you don’t even have to walk through rush hour anymore.

Cure light wounds? No more crippling injuries from stupid accidents.  Purify food and drink means no one gets sick from food gone off.  For that matter, a 5th level cleric can feed 15 people a day with one casting of create food and water, which means famine not so much.  Repel vermin, made permanent, means one can sleep without worrying about lice, mosquitos, bedbugs, or any of the other disease-carrying bugs of the world.  And if you get malaria, the cleric can fix that, too, so no need for sickle-cell.

If you can summon and bind fire elementals, you can make steam engines that require no fuel.  Unseen servant can do drudge work like cleaning or weaving, freeing up humans to do creative things.  With a decanter of endless water, deserts can be easily made fertile; with a bottle of air, mining is no longer such a dangerous job…assuming you actually mine, instead of getting your iron from the wall of iron spell.  Anyway, just get a druid to stone shape the shafts.

Sure, people might not think of all these things immediately, but it wouldn’t take long; we monkeys are always looking for ways to do less work.  And a magic-driven world would be cleaner and safer than a technology-driven one, because magic doesn’t produce waste.


Lightning’s Heart

Having recently purchased Weapons of Legacy (which I shouldn’t have, because I am poor, but that’s not relevant really), I am really liking the idea of an item that gets better as you level.  The base item has to be magic, but can cost no more than 4000 gp; you have to perform a series of rituals to “unlock” the item’s powers, which you can’t do any earlier than 5th level.  These rituals are based on events that took place over the history of the item and cost money but not xp (and you have to use Knowledge (history) checks and/or spells like legend lore to find out how to perform them).   Also there are personal costs, which are in theory balanced by the powers of the item. I think Altariel needs one of these items, and given her projected career (10 levels of electrical elemental savant) it should be something that relates to electricity.

Given that standard D&D uses the 4-element system (Altariel uses a more “oriental” 5-element, in which electricity is linked to metal), I’m going to go with electricity>lightning>air>mind and use a +2 headband of intellect as the base item.  This comes in exactly at the 4000 gp limit.  Clearly, Lightning’s Heart should grant access to the Energy Substitution (electricity) feat, and there are a bunch of powers on the lists in the back of the book that fit the theme nicely: grants castings of lighning bolt, chain lightning and energy resistance some times per day, gives ability bonuses–Int in this case, of course–grants haste for some number of rounds per day, that sort of thing.  Where I’m falling down is the backstory.

Clearly, if I want a powerful item I should be willing to put in some effort for it, but I’m just totally blanking.  I hesitate to say “Can’t I just pay the gold costs and handwave it?”, but it’s awfully tempting.  The job is made more difficult by the fact that the stories in Weapons of Legacy vary between “This event caused this power” and “This character, the original owner, has a cool backstory, and by the way the item can do this nifty thing now”.

Also, neato house rule I heard lately: Epic characters (21st level and up) can’t be raised from the dead because, if they die, the gods on the planes they end up on look at them and say, “Hmmm, you’re useful; you’re sticking around.”

Gamist Gaming

In the Sunday night Dragonstar game, my character has recently had some bad experiences–basically, seeing that her homeworld is being run by an imposter (of her) who is the tool of the chaotic evil black dragons.  Cordelia (and that is her real name and she’s not going to forget it, thank you) is True Neutral, though she really wants to be Neutral Good, and she’s basically a social monster (as opposed to a combat monster or a skill monster or whatever). 

There’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem with Cordelia’s preferred method for working out negative feelings; does she use sex because she’s a social monster, or is she a social monster because using sex required her to become one?  Girl’s also got some identity issues, in that a large chunk of her skills are focused on allowing her to pretend to be other people, and in fact her continued existence depends heavily on not claiming her real name in public…but her recent trip to her homeworld showed her that her unclaimable identity as Grand Duchess of Vorbarra is actually important to her.  For that matter, she’s come to regret telling the other PCs that they should call her Ekaterin, her usual nom de guerre, even in private.

Now, D&D is not what you’d call Narrative-focused.  In fact it’s the flagship of Gamist gaming–witness how easy it is to gimp a character at first level with a bad feat choice.  So an important character issue, which in some games might be handled with “Secret Identity” or “Identity Issues” or whatnot on the character sheet, is instead a matter of me telling the GM that Cordelia makes it a point to use her own face whenever it’s not advisable to be someone else.

Right.  So back to Codelia and her bad experience.  She’s back with the rest of the PCs, and she’s feeling intensely stupid and self-destructive.  Being a social monster, she’s decided, mostly unconsciously, that the way to deal with this is to make someone else just as miserable as she is.  She’s picked out Krellit, the Geeky Mechanic ™ of the party, as the most logical candidate, i.e. the one most likely to, you should pardon the expression, fall for it.  It hasn’t really dawned on her yet that this is going to be Bad for Party Cohesiveness.  It should have dawned, mind, but I mentioned stupid and self-destructive, right?

Cordelia is aware that Krellit, not being an idiot, knows she can literally bluff the pants off him should she so desire.  So she went into it pretending to be awkward–the theory being that when blindsided by real emotion she’s just as unsure as anyone else.  And he went for it, and they have started a sexual relationship.  Which led to an issue.

It occurred to me that, while I am aware of the in-bed competence of Krellit’s player, Krellit the character is a different story.  And at some point I said, “Um…I have to roll dice.”  And the GM looked at me and asked for what, and Krellit’s player and I said, pretty much in unison, “Bluff”; that is, Cordelia was faking it (“I’ll have what she’s having.”).  Which led to the slightly injured question on Krellit’s player’s part of why I thought she was going to have to fake it.  How did we know Krellit wasn’t an erotic genius? 

Unsurprisingly, D&D doesn’t have a “Have Sex” skill.  It also doesn’t have anywhere in particular that one can be shoehorned in, with the exception of Perform. Problem is, Perform is Charisma-based, which leads to the ludicrous conclusion that unattractive people are ipso facto lousy lovers.  Amid much laughter, the GM went for Sense Motive on the strength of “paying attention to body language”, which was amusing but not IMO quite right.  Me, I’d go for a Dex-based Perform, or just a whole new skill, with possibly a Con check for how long the characters can, and I swear no pun is intended here, keep it up.

But anyway.  My problem is that I love D&D, I really do, and at the same time I adore games that center on or at least include issues that D&D just isn’t equipped to handle.  In some games, Cordelia’s identity issues would have gotten her extra points or provide a mechanic in some situations; in D&D it’s basically me looking at the GM and saying “I want to have a plotline involving this.”  (Note that the GM has provided one, it’s just that he had to do it with no system support pretty much at all.)  Similarly, it would be amusing if Cordelia discovered that Krellit’s watched enough porn to have a, hmmm, firm grasp of the basics and that she was actually having a good time, even if not so good a time as she pretended; lacking any way to work it out, we fall back on the image of the hopeless techie (“You!  Have you ever kissed a girl!?”).

I don’t know as I have any coherent point here, aside from a personal preference for Gamist mechanics and Narrativist play.  It’s just so hard to abstract things like a brilliant conversationalist…

More Images

Player’s Handbook 3.5(July 2003): 

female male unknown female dress passive female dress neutral female dress active female stance passive female stance neutral female stance active male dress passive male dress neutral male dress active male stance passive male stance neutral male stance active
25 40 0 0 7 18 2 13 10 3 11 26 2 24 12
38.5% 61.5% 0% 0% 28.0% 72.0% 8.0% 52.0% 40.0% 7.5% 27.5% 65.0% 5.3% 63.2% 31.6%

 This has the same caveats as my last post on the subject, and some additonal notes:

Two of the male “passive dress” notes are in fact naked, both line drawings from chapter headings with the relevant bit carefully smudged out; one of these is a half-and-half, with the left half of the body naked and the other in full plate. I listed it as two different images. One passive stance is Krusk, the iconic barbarian, as the iconic cleric Jozan steps on his head to climb a cliff–Krusk may be helping, but one of the definitions of “passive” we’re using is “doesn’t want to be doing this”, and Krusk has a look of pain on his face. Lidda, the rogue, shown as an example of what happens when Use Magic Device goes wrong, was listed as passive; she is active when dodging a ray because she’s being attacked but is doing something about it. None of the miniatures in the combat chapter are listed because they’re hard to identify as humanoid, much less male or female, just by looking at them. The small figure blocked by prismatic wall seems to be male, but I could be wrong, and is listed as passive. The target of raise dead is about as passive as it’s possible to get, and was listed as such.


Was poking around and found an interesting article on images of women in game materials.  So I decided to do a little data collection of my own, using roughly the same guidelines that the person who wrote the article used.

A few changes and notes: Where the image was a picture of an example character with stats, I checked the text for gender if it wasn’t glaringly obvious; the original checks did not allow this.  There were a couple of examples (e.g. the dervish) in which female characters were wearing basically bikinis, but were engaged in combat; I listed this as active dress if the class was one that did not depend on armor for defense (didn’t provide armor proficiency, had Evasion, etc).  By analogy, men in fur loincloths were also described as being in active dress.  There were a bunch of pictures of things like trolls, where I felt unable to guess gender despite an overall masculine feel; I listed these as unknown, which led to instances–again, the dervish–in which figures that probably should have been counted as male were in passive poses, but weren’t counted.  Bahamut, Tiamat and Lolth were listed (and coded as being in neutral dress) , as they all have definitive genders though none is strictly humanoid.  The picture of the knight protector includes a figure who is pointing in a way that implies “the trouble is over there”; I listed it as passive since it didn’t seem to be intending to help.  The Red Wizard being guarded by the Thayan knight was likewise called passive, along with all characters worshipping Tiamat.  There was one character noted as female because it appeared to be Lidda, the iconic rogue. 

Complete Warrior (Dec 2003): 

female male unknown female dress passive female dress neutral female dress active female stance passive female stance neutral female stance active male dress passive male dress neutral male dress active male stance passive male stance neutral male stance active
39 78 58 0 2 36 3 13 22 0 8 67 12 29 35
22.3% 44.6% 33.1% 0% 5.3% 94.7% 7.9% 34.2% 57.9% 0% 10.7% 89.3% 15.8% 38.2% 46.1%


 Complete Divine (May 2004):  

female male unknown female dress passive female dress neutral female dress active female stance passive female stance neutral female stance active male dress passive male dress neutral male dress active male stance passive male stance neutral male stance active
39 43 30 1 10 28 4 10 25 1 6 32 8 15 21
34.8% 38.4% 26.8% 2.6% 25.6% 71.8% 10.3% 25.6% 64.1% 2.6% 15.4% 82.1% 18.2% 34.1% 47.7%

All in all, this is not bad.  The two instances of passive dress, for example, are a succubus and a man in a straitjacket, though one might argue that the rainbow servant should also count.  The overwhelming preponderance of active dress and stance are easily ascribed to the nature of the pictures; they are designed to showcase classes and actions.  Most passive pictures were chapter headings or the opponents of the main character, such as the drunken master’s bar brawl and Hennet’s webbed ghosts.  There are still more men than women, but the women are in general doing things–though, oddly, the only people shown casting healing spells are male.

I have other D&D books I’d like to check, including the PHB, the Epic Level Handbook, Manual of the Planes, Heroes of Battle, Complete Arcane and Complete Adventurer.

Archer as a 20-Level Class



Level BAB Fort Ref Will Special
1st +1 +0 +2 +0 Point Blank Shot, Increased Range (+5 feet)
2nd +2 +0 +3 +0 Bonus feat
3rd +3 +1 +3 +1 Armor familiarity
4th +4 +1 +4 +1 Cover reduction
5th +5 +1 +4 +1 Bonus feat
6th +6 +2 +5 +2  
7th +7 +2 +5 +2 Concealment reduction
8th +8 +2 +6 +2 Bonus feat
9th +9 +3 +6 +3  
10th +10 +3 +7 +3 Increased Range (+10 feet)
11th +11 +3 +7 +3 Bonus feat
12th +12 +4 +8 +4  
13th +13 +4 +8 +4  
14th +14 +4 +9 +4 Bonus feat
15th +15 +5 +9 +5 Cover elimination
16th +16 +5 +10 +5  
17th +17 +5 +10 +5 Bonus feat
18th +18 +6 +11 +6  
19th +19 +6 +11 +6 Increased range (+15 feet)
20th +20 +6 +12 +6 Bonus feat

Alignment: Any


Hit Die: d8

Class Skills: Balance (Dex), Climb (Dex), Craft (Int), Hide (Dex), Jump (Str), Listen (Wis), Move Silently (Dex), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Spot (Wis)

Skill Points: 4+Int

Class Features:

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Archers are proficient with all ranged weapons (excluding exotic ranged weapons) and with light armor.

Point Blank Shot: At 1st level, the archer receives Point Blank Shot as a bonus feat.

Increased range: At 1st level, the range increment of any ranged weapon used by the archer increases by 5 feet.  This enhancement increases to 10 feet at 10th level and to 15 feet at 19th level.

Bonus feat:  At 2nd level and every 3rd level thereafter, the archer gains a bonus feat from the following list: Acrobatic, Agile, Alertness, Athletic, Dodge, Endurance, Far Shot, Improved Critical (missile weapons only), Improved Initiative, Improved Precise Shot, Lightning Reflexes, Manyshot, Mobility, Mounted Archery, Mounted Combat, Precise Shot, Rapid Reload, Rapid Shot, Run, Shot on the Run, Spring Attack, Stealthy, Weapon Focus (missile weapons only).  The archer must meet all prerequisites before selecting the feat.  [Also this list should include archery-related feats from sources other than the SRD, which is what I am currently working with.]

Armor Familiarity: At 3rd level, the archer has become so familiar with his armor and weapons that he no longer has a maximum Dexterity bonus due to armor.  He may use his full Dexterity bonus when using a ranged weapon, regardless of any armor check penalty or the normal maximum Dexterity bonus imposed by the armor.  The penalty and maximum bonus still apply to all other actions taken while wearing the armor.

Cover Reduction: At 4th level, a target’s bonus to AC granted by cover is reduced to +2 when the archer makes a ranged attack.

Concealment Reduction: At 7th level, the miss chance granted by concealment is reduced to 10% when the archer makes a ranged attack.

Cover Elimination: At 15th level, targets no longer gain cover bonuses to AC when the archer makes a ranged attack.

Thoughts, questions, comments?  I don’t think it’s overpowered, given that all it does is shoot things, but I’m not sure–mostly, a lot of the special abilities want to be near the beginning, when they do the most good, but I fear this makes it a ‘dip’ class for straight fighters.

I also contemplated doing something rather like the monk with two attack progressions: 2/3 or even 1/2 progression for most attacks, but full for missile attacks.  Not sure how to implement that or even if it’s a good idea.   Some sort of ranged sneak attack might be right in theme, but I think that adding it would push the class over the edge into munchkinism.

And I gave them Point Blank Shot because every archer in existence has it anyway.  It’s the basic archery feat; I don’t think there’s even one archery-focused feat that doesn’t have PBS as a prereq.

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PC Race

OK, here’s the writeup:

Leopards posess the following racial traits:

  • +6 Strength, +8 Dexterity, +4 Constitution, +2 Wisdom, -4 Charisma
  • Medium size
  • Basic speed 40 feet, climb 20 ft
  • Low light vision
  • Scent
  • Improved Grab: To use this ability, a leopard must hit with its bite attack. It can then attempt to start a grapple as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity.  If it wins the grapple check, it establishes a hold and can rake.
  • Pounce: If a leopard charges a foe, it can make a full attack, including two rake attacks.
  • Rake: Attack bonus +6 melee, damage 1d3+1.
  • +8 racial bonus on Jump checks and a +4 racial bonus on Hide and Move Silently checks. Leopards have a +8 racial bonus on Balance and Climb checks. A leopard can always choose to take 10 on a Climb check, even if rushed or threatened. In areas of tall grass or heavy undergrowth, the Hide bonus improves to +8.
  • Four Feet: A leopard has no fine manipulators and cannot use most conventional equipment.  If one leg is injured, the leopard’s speed decreases by one half.
  • Animal: As an animal, the leopard is affected by spells such as hold animalHold person has no effect.  In addition, humanoids who are not aware of the leopard’s intelligence treat it as dangerous, and it has a -4 penalty to all Diplomacy and Gather Information checks.
  • Automatic Languages: Sylvan.  Bonus Languages: Common, Elven, Gnomish
  • Favored Class: Monk

Note that there’s no level adjustment there despite the insane stat adjustments–which are actually rounded down from the description in the MM.  This is for a couple of reasons.  One, the PC simply can’t use most items, including weapons.  Two, the social penalties for being an intelligent animal are pretty heinous, and should be roleplayed out even when there’s no actual die rolling involved.

I was tempted to put in bonus to Bluff, because a leopard doesn’t have facial expressions the same way a humanoid does, and Intimidate, because, well, niiiice kitty.  But I’m torn–do we need a trait for female leopard PCs, whereby once every few months they go into heat?  I’d expect it from any GM I played with, but it seems like fodder for the idiot gam3rz of the world.