Sunday, March 8, 2015

13th Age House Rules - Rage and Momentum

    In my last post I talked about a house rule I used in my last game for non-constant Animal Companions in 13th Age.  I also touched on my love/hate relationship with the game, which has led me to contemplate some more house rules.  I have not tried either of these, if/when I do I'll post how it goes.

Momentum (Rogue)
    My friend Aaron is always the Rogue, well, close enough to always at least.  So when we first started 13th Age he made one, and the Rogue's big trick is Momentum.  When a Rogue hits an opponent he gains momentum, when he is hit he loses it.  He can also spend it to trigger a few special abilities.  We played 2 adventures, and Aaron said he was not impressed with the ability, and as GM watching him neither was I.  So we debated the following change, which we'll try next time we play those characters.
    With this variant rule, Momentum is represented by a d6.  Like the escalation die, it starts at 0 (or, not in play).  When the Rogue hits an opponent the die goes to 1, and every turn the Rogue hits that same opponent it goes up by another 1 (to the max of 6 of course).  The die advances after the hit, so it is not applied until the next turn.  For every point of Momentum, the Rogue gets a +1 to damage to that opponent (at the Champion and Epic tiers when the Rogue doubles/triples his attribute mod to damage, he also doubles/triples the momentum bonus).  The Momentum bonus is also added to miss damage.
    As with the current rules, the Rogue can still spend Momentum to activate an ability, in which case reduce the momentum die by 1 (which takes effect before the damage from the ability).  If the Rogue does not hit the opponent, the momentum die stays at the same level.  If the Rogue is hit, the momentum die does not change (or goes down by 1 if you want to be harsher).  However, if the Rogue targets a different opponent, the momentum die resets to 0 and its damage bonus is not used on the new target.
    The idea for this system is that Momentum represents the Rogue's ability to study an opponent and strike at it's weak spots.  Since the escalation die already adds to hit, and doubling that seemed a bit excessive, I decided to set this as a damage bonus instead.  Attacking a different opponent means having to start over reading their fighting style and looking for weaknesses (thus the die resets).  I wrote this so you could still use the momentum powers for the Rogue, but honestly if you wanted to ditch the whole thing you could make it the momentum die x 2 for damage (or x3 and x4 at higher tiers) and possibly even apply it to hit as well (at just the die, no multiplying) - that should be a big enough bonus to help cover the lack of momentum powers, which seemed okay but maybe not spectacular.  For some extra oomph, the momentum die might also add to all non-combat skills, representing how the rogue keeps working the problem, assuming that more then one roll is required for success (like most talking, and really complicated locks/traps or searching).  Another crazy idea, the Rogue can choose to use the momentum die as a bonus to AC instead of the damage bonus until the start of his next round (only against the targeted opponent though).
    This sounded like it might have that "Rogue feel" a bit better then the regular rules, and the momentum die would apply to both melee and ranged combat, to maybe help make that "sniper-rogue" type of character.

Rage (Barbarian)
    The Rage ability is very strange to me, coming at it from a Pathfinder background.  As written it lets the Barbarian roll 2d20 to hit and take the best.  While that is very helpful, it makes the flat distribution into a rather impressive slope, it seems very limited and does not have the feel of the 'crazed fighter.'  When I think of Rage, in any game, I think of the Berserkers, the literary ancient Norse warriors who were so consumed by battle-lust that they were a danger to friend and foe alike.  I want a game to give me some passionate Rage, not the tepid, lukewarm thing in 13th Age.
    At heart, the idea for the system is this: as with Momentum, Rage is represented by a d6 and does not begin in play.  It takes a move-action for the Barbarian to enter a Raging state, which increases the die by 1.  The Barbarian can only increase his Rage state by 1 point each turn at most.  For each point of Rage, the Barbarian gains 2 times the bonus to hit and damage (so +2 hit/damage at Rage 1, +6 hit/damage at Rage 3, up to +12 at Rage 6 max).
    However, when raging each turn the Barbarian needs to choose a target to attack.  Before rolling that attack, the Barbarian must roll a d6.  If the result of that d6 is less than the Barbaran's Rage level, then the Barbarian will instead attack a random target, chosen from all visible friends and foes.  If the new target is not within range, then the Barbarian will spend their action to move closer and end their turn.
    A Barbarian can increase their Rage level by spending the move action described above, but they can also try to lower their Rage.  This is a standard action, and requires a Hard Save (16+).  If the save is successful the Rage level is lowered by 1, if not then the action is wasted.  Trying to lower Rage must be declared before a target is chosen or rolled randomly.
    I like this idea in general, that while Rage comes with some really nice benefits it is also potentially dangerous - not just to allies, if all the opponents step out of range then the Rage may have the Barbarian running back and forth between them instead of attacking efficiently; or could make the Barb waste actions killing mooks instead of dealing with a greater threat (and it's reasonable to assume the smart bad guys would try to take advantage of any raging Barbarians if possible).
    There are several ways I've thought about modifying this system.  First, the only real downside is the potentially variable targeting, and the idea that Rage inflicts penalties to skills and defenses was in Pathfinder and also makes sense.  So maybe the to hit/damage bonus is also an AC penalty (or, maybe just the Rage level is a penalty to AC, most of my monsters have hit players pretty reliably).  And possibly while Raging the Barbarian cannot do any actions that require Int (or again, take the rage level x2 as a penalty).  On the other hand, it's reasonable to say the Barbarian gets a +2 to any non-combat actions requiring great strength or intimidation (or, any "Forceful" Approach if using my 13th Age/Fate mash-up).  It could also be possible to tie some special abilities to Rage level, since the power is pretty static, it's just a bonus to straight combat rolls and not as diverse as the Fighter's flexible attacks or a spellcaster's spells - I have not thought exactly how to do that though.

    So, there are 2 more ideas for how to tinker with the 13th Age system.  I do like the simple, for a d20 game, system - but it is possible to be too simplistic.  I want all of my players to feel like they have several meaningful options each encounter, weather combat or non-combat.  Honestly, the Barbarian, Ranger and Paladin kind of get shafted, they start with only 1 Class Feature (the other classes get 3, though the Ranger actually has 0), and while they can choose 2 extra Class Talents when they tier-up at levels 4 and 8, the other classes are getting extra options at levels 3, 5, 7 and 9.  So I've really been thinking about how to re-balance class abilities since they seem to be a little out of whack.  I'll post more thoughts later, and as always feel free to leave a comment below.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

13th Age House Rule - Summoning Animal Companions

    I love the concept of 13th Age, to take the Pathfinder/d20 System and simplify it, adding some more role-playing elements.  But there is a lot of the execution of the game that I just hate.  Biggest of all, I hate the meta-gaming system of abilities that are available on an arbitrary schedule: At-Will, Once Per Battle, have a Chance to Recharge after the battle, or Once Per Day.  That breaks the player out of the character's head and hurts the immersion of the game.
    In our last adventure we decided to try something different with the Animal Companion system.  In 13th Age you can either buy an Animal Companion who is always by your side, or a limited companion who is only available every other battle.  Instead of that, because I don't understand why you would not summon aid in every battle if it was possible (and there's no good reason for why it is only possible half the time), we tried a new system.  For our Ranger who had the limited Animal Companion I had her roll a d6 at the start of every battle, her companion arrived on the turn when the escalation die equaled the number rolled.  It got the normal move and standard actions, and always started at the edge of the battlefield.
     This seemed to work pretty well, some battles were fast enough the companion didn't arrive.  At the least the companion didn't arrive until the second round, and it always needed to move into position, so it was not as convenient as having the constant companion.  It seemed to be a good comprimise between not always being there but not being completely unavailable.
    Best of all, I could easily define and describe it - the Ranger had to call for an animal, and there was no way of knowing just how close the appropriate type of animal could be to the battle (she only summoned canines, thanks to the murdered ghost of her pet- something that tied into her One Unique Thing).  That gives the delay a reasonable explanation from a role-playing standpoint, and makes it a lot better in my opinion.  We only tried it for one game, but it seemed to go well so I think we'll keep it as our new system.