Wednesday, May 23, 2018

All Under HERO: Thoughts on Magic Systems of the Known World (Part 1)

The Magic-User Archetype (for Karameikos)

Karameikos was crafted to be the stereotypical D&D fantasy realm, and as a result has primarily stereotypical D&D wizards. As a result there's no shortage of ways to build this magical system in HERO. The classic magic system is known for:
  • verbal (Incantations)
  • somatic (Gestures)
  • material components (Foci and/or charges)
Also, you need to re-learn / re-select what spells you can cast each morning via spellbooks that is basically the list of spells you can learn and cast. You have newer spells that arise out of research (or learning from scrolls, other mages, or from acquired spellbooks) added to this spellbook.

However, given the HERO points-based, non-class philosophy -- not every mage will be shackled into these exact set of restrictions. In fact, the concept of a magic school or tradition may help very well here.

Magical Learning: Academies or Apprenticeships?

We know that there is an official school established in Karameikos, just as there schools elsewhere (Thyatis, Glantri, Alphatia, etc.), so there's no doubt that well-traveled mages and adventurers will be able to guess where a mage picked up their skills not only by the spells, but by the limitations and advantages open to them. There will be a certain rigor and breadth of knowledge and understanding of magical theory and history, even if they turn out to be not-so-great as students.

And there might be some rivalry between schools from a given academy, or between different academies as well.

However, there could also be apprenticeships. Depending on where the master or tutor learned his/her magic, the student could have strengths and weaknesses that academy-trained mages lack. And there could also be greater dangers associated with them as well, assuming that part of the approach of the larger academies is to teach magic that works for ALL students, rather than customizing curriculum for each student. Therefore the apprenticeship style of learning could have a more eclectic selection of spell, or a more specialized approach toward things.

And of course, depending on the build, some fighters and thieves may have picked up a minor cantrip here or there...

Thursday, May 10, 2018

All Under Hero: BECMI D&D To Hit progression

Karameikos has always been the starting point of my understanding of Mystara; the first Gazetteer was my first realization that it was its own setting.

And since the Gazetteer states that Karameikos was designed as being designed to accommodate the rulebook classes, I've decided to assume that the D&D cyclopedia classes and levels are sort of 'rules of thumb' to build Mystaran characters -- and even to use as NPC templates for customization in the course of play.

So -- let's look at the To Hit tables for the classes (which include demi-humans)!

Progression Insights

According to this table, we can see that:
  • Character classes are a cut above normal humans (even magic users), with a +1 to their To Hits at 1st level. 
  • Fighters improve their To Hit chances by +2 every 3 levels.
  • Clerics, Thieves, and Druids improve their To Hit Chances by +2 every 4 levels.
  • Magic Users improve their To Hit Chances by +2 every 5 levels.
  • Demi-humans progress a little bit differently (see the letters).
This can easily be done in HERO with equivalent bonuses to the PC's OCV per level.

Why not make these straightforward Skill Level purchases? Well, there are a couple of things that might complicate matters:
  • reflecting hit points: rather than a straighforward boost to BODY, STUN, or PD / ED, allowing a bonus to CV instead of just OCV could reflect how higher level characters are just better at combat in general (as a guideline).
  • weapon mastery rules: these also have an effect of boosting your skills, and any characters with this should have these reflected as skill levels with their chosen weapons; implementing with skill levels instead of a straight OCV bonus might confuse matters.
So, I'll proceed on this basis for now.

Friday, May 4, 2018

All Under Hero: HEROic D&D

Mystara has been a setting that fascinates me, due to the long-lingering influence of the Gazetteers on my fantasy gaming life. One of the reasons I attempted, years ago, to do a "HEROic" conversion of D&D (see the following old links), was partially due to the setting.

HEROic D&D - Part 1
HEROic D&D - Part 2
HEROic D&D - Part 3
HEROic D&D - Part 4
HEROic D&D - Part 5

Someone asked my why I would attempt such a thing, given how well HERO does fantasy, and the fact that I was obviously a HERO fan, and knew Fantasy Hero. I answered the following:

"to convert various NPCs, PCs and monsters into HERO characters and then play straight using HERO rules. 
It's not REALLY a system re-creation, but two things:
(1) primarily a way to rationalize in my head how these conversions would be done;
(2) very secondarily, a way to explore how HERO deviated from the original ruleset -- as I think I've hinted at here by how I handled stats."

Looking back, I would have to say that it was probably more of a combination of the first sentence, and #2 of the last paragraph.

To be honest, it seems to me that #2 of the last paragraph was a major part of it -- I wanted to explore why the ruleset of HERO resonated so strongly with my own mental model of how the world works, as opposed to my occasional hesitations when remembering the abstraction choices made in D&D rules (like the abstract Armor Class approach, which combines difficulty in hitting someone with the ability to penetrate armor / do damage).

At the same time, I also felt that Mystara had hidden depths that I could best express in HERO system (which I think echoes in my own explorations of magic systems elsewhere on this blog). I wanted to have a depth and breadth of fighting builds for characters, and a way to express how different magical / mystical systems could be realized in the world -- and why those differences matter when recognized by players.

That being the case, I'm returning to this project with a different perspective, perhaps to ground my explorations more. I'm going to begin building components for the Mystara / Enigmundia world in HERO to see where they bring me in terms of the ideas for the setting.