Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dungeons of Saedom: More on Races

Following are some of the errata for playable races which applies to the Dungeons of Saedom campaign. Minotars and tieflings have some minor changes, whereas wilden are altered in many ways.

The minotaur errata requires nothing more than a slight change in the way in which a player creates a minotaur character. The ability score modifiers which a minotaur receives are not flexible, as they are in PHB3; a minotaur character must select a +2 Constitution ability score modifier.

The tiefling errata is appearance based. The following replaces the "Physical Qualities" portion of the tiefling racial profile. Tieflings' appearance testifies to their infernal bloodline. Their skin generally has a pale, white color to it. Though their skin color can be quite dark, even extending to reds, from a ruddy tan to a deep brick red. Their hair is likely to be dark, generally black, but they, as a race, display the full range of normal human hair colors. At the extreme, some tieflings have dark blue, red, and purple hair. They have sharply pointed teeth and hard pointed nails on their hands and feet. Many tieflings also have horns sprouting from the sides of their foreheads, ranging in size from small pointed "nubs" to much larger, horns which curve along the sides of their heads. Their nearly human appearance makes it somewhat easy for tiefings to blend into human society. Tieflings favor dark colors and reds, leathers and glossy furs, small spikes and buckles. Tiefling-crafted arms and armor often have an archaic style, harkening back to the glory of their long-vanished empire.

The wilden errata is quite extensive. First, the ability score modifiers which a wilden receives are not flexible, as they are in PHB3; a wilden must select a +2 Dexterity ability score modifier. The following replaces the "Physical Qualities" portion of the wilden racial profile:

Wilden, at a first look, appear to be much like their eladrin and elfen cousins, slender and athletic, though wilden are a bit taller than the eladrin and elfs. Upon taking a second look, a viewer becomes more fully aware of the ancient fey origins of the wilden race and their connection to the natural world. As wilden age, their bodies move through the seasons. Young wilden are like trees in spring, filled with life and vigor, their bodies a pale green hue and their hair a light blonde. In the summer phase, a wilden's body and hair turn brown or tan, having reached its full size and stature. Wilden in the autumn phase undergo a profound change, their skin darkening as their hair changes color to fiery red, deep blonde, or orange. Finally, the winter phase heralds the end of a wilden's life, as the body grows thinner its skin and hair dull to whites and grays. Within each wilden lies nature's spirit, and all can manifest this spirit in different forms called aspects. Each aspect triggers a physical transformation. A wilden in the aspect of the ancients has eyes and hair of either stark white, cool grey, or ice blue. In the aspect of the destroyer, jagged patches of barky spurs break through the wilden's skin, and his or her eyes darken to a deep brown or lustrous black. The hunter's aspect altars a wilden's body as the hairs on its body harden into sharp thorns, while his or her eyes take on a bright emerald or soft auburn color. A typical wilden lives long, even longer than their eladrin and elfen cousins; some have been known to have lived for more than 800 years.

The following replaces the "Playing a Wilden" portion of the wilden racial profile:

The wilden are an ancient race, having existed before the Dawn Wars. They are one of the first races to have sprung from the Fey branch of the Tree of the Creator Races. Though they appear to be much like the eladrin and elfs, they are no more closely related to them than they are to other fey races and creatures. Central to wilden existence are nature's three aspects: the keeper of ancient secrets, the destroyer, and the hunter. As keepers of ancient secrets, wilden act as stewards, preserving the land against any who would defile it. The destroyer aspect is nature's fury incarnate-the destruction embodied by hurricanes, tornadoes, and lightning strikes. Finally, the aspect of the hunter seeks out and eradicates aberrant corruption, containing the taint of aberration before it can spread.

As an ancient people, the wilden lack grudges toward other races. Their history of interactions with other races has been so great that they have experienced both the good and the evil that other races have wrought upon the world. Wilden are curious and eager to learn about other societies, beliefs, and cultures, informing their outlooks and values based on those of the races they interact with. Wilden experience dramatic shifts in personality when they assume their aspects. They become introspective, thoughtful, and cautious when in the aspect of the ancients, aggressive in the aspect of the destroyer, and secretive and withdrawn while in the aspect of the hunter. Wilden learn to control these tendencies over time, but the transformation can be jarring to those around them.

Even as wilden shape their beliefs through exposure to other cultures, they maintain that their purpose is to secure the Feywild and the natural world from harm. Wilden who worship gods venerate deities who cherish nature. Many wilden also honor the primal spirits and the primordial Dawn Gods.

Lacking many prejudices and being few in number, wilden often adopt the communities of other races as their own. Wilden are found living among communities of many other fey races, both in and out of the Feywild; eladrin, elfen, and gnome communities often have wilden living among them as advisors and counselors as well as war chieftains. The wilden have no kingdoms or cities of their own, when they do congregate as wilden, they gather in small communities where the borders between the Feywild and the natural world are thinnest. The wilden live in harmony with nature, so even in these settlements, it is difficult to distinguish where the wilderness leaves off and the community begins.

One might ask, "Why are you messing with the rules... dude?" I assure you that for each of the alterations good, well thought out reasons exist. The first alteration, eliminating the ability score adjustment choice for minotaurs is simple. One of the advantages of playing a non-human is having ability score adjustments that go beyond those that may, or may not be available to humans. This has been rooted into the D&D system from the start. But the converse has been that humans are more flexible; in 4e, one way in which this is shown is by a +2 ability score bump to whichever score the player chooses to boost. Maybe its my OSG roots or maybe its a desire to, as a DM, maintain a little balance while keeping humans somehow cool and unique which drives me. I am sure it is a bit of both. But, to maintain a human's flexibility in the face of non-humans which, ability-score-wise, are stronger, faster, smarter, etc. a human character needs to have a +2 to any one ability to maintain balance while allowing humans to also have cool racial advantages... come on man, eladrin characters can teleport! Beyond that, for minotaurs to be 7 foot tall monstrous humanoids which tower in size and strength over their more diminutive mates, it is appropriate for them to be "restricted" to having a higher Constitution. On the mechanics side it may seem as it is a bit of a hit; almost all of the other non-humans have their modifiers spread out between scores which modify 2 defenses (Fortitude, Reflex, or Will). But, I look at it like this: pairing a high Strength and a high Constitution allows the player to build a true monster of a character with the ability to tear open a gate while taking damage from enemy monsters, then pulling out an axe to split some heads. Not a bad deal.

The appearance based adjustments to tieflings are based on my simple desire to keep devils with horns and tails from running around my campaign. I like the background and the style of the tiefling race. They fit well into the history and feeling of the post-apocalyptic setting of the Saedom campaign.

Finally, the extensive alterations to the wilden racial profile are a combination of the two aforementioned reasons. First, the ability score adjustment ruling was made for the same reason it was made in the case of minotaurs. I want to keep humans flexible and "competitive" as PCs. I selected Dexterity as their adjustment because, on the mechanical side, I feel that it fits a bit better with their racial "build". The class/race combinations that I envision a wilden character having are more likely to benefit from an enhanced Dexterity. On the campaign side of the house, to me it made little difference as to whether a wilden is tougher (Constitution) or speedier (Dexterity). I could see either as being characterful for wilden. The extensive adjustments made to rest of the wilden profile were made to give them a place in my campaign. I just cannot abide people playing trees, bushes, or weeds in my campaign. Maybe I am crazy... maybe it's just too anime-esque/new school for me... I am not sure what my problem is. In any case, my players needs to suffer through my vision of what Saedom should look and feel like. Even though tree people sounds ridiculous to me, elder primal spirit beings that have chosen, or been compelled, to take humanoid form is kind of cool. These are the "wild elves" of many other campaigns! It is not altogether crazy for the wilden to look elfish; many Fey creatures, other than elfs, have pointy ears and lithe builds: gnomes, faeries, etc.

I do plan on adding racial profile info on all of the PC races over time, placing them in the campaign. But that will be coming down the road. As I mentioned in an earlier post I have considered adding goblins to Saedom as a PC race. I have also been considering adding some sort of sundered dwarfs. In 2e, I do remember, the idea of a clan of exile dwarfs floated around. These dwarfs lived above ground and spurned caves, mines, and tunnels. I believe that they were required to make a fear save to even enter a cave. Even more importantly, though, I remember pony-riding dwarfs from the cover of a book I read when I was a kid. I was maybe 8 years old then. In the St. Andrews school library I had already discovered the Choose Your Own Adventure series of books. At the same time, TSR was releasing a series of its own adventure books: the Endless Quest books. The first book in the series that I picked up was The Revolt of the Dwarves. The cover of that book still stirs feelings of dwarfy love in me: dwarf lords riding upon stout ponies, charging their enemies... cool huh? I have 2 hurtles when I consider bringing these 2 "new" races to my game. The first is purely mechanical. It is a bit of a pain to put house rules into the DDI Character Builder. My players and I may be a bit lazy, but in our experience the Builder is necessary when creating 4e characters. There are just too many options for feats and powers. Furthermore, we need the characters to be in a digital format so that we can import them into Fantasy Grounds. The second challenge is creating/deciding on what the racial profile could/would/should look like. The goblin which exists, as a monster race, in the Builder to me is pretty lame and not really acceptable. And there is no sundered dwarf. Any ideas?

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