Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Doing Things a Little Differently

Detailed here are six new feats for use with any D20 System game.


New Feats

Force of Personality
This character has such a strong personality that she becomes more resistant to magic and other mental influences.
Benefit: The hero applies her Charisma modifier rather than her Wisdom modifier to her Will save.

Mental Acumen
This character is so intelligent that he has built up unusual defenses against influences that would affect his mind.
Benefit: The hero applies his Intelligence modifier rather than his Wisdom modifier to his Will save.

Sharp Eye
You have a good eye for details, and are able to notice small signs of others’ passage.
Prerequisites: Track feat.
Benefit: When using the Track feat, you may use your Search skill for any relevant checks.
Normal: Usually you must use the Survival skill for checks involved with the Track feat.

Spiritual Determination
Stubborn is one way to describe this character. When she decides on a course of action, it becomes physically more difficult to force her to do otherwise.
Benefit: This hero applies her Wisdom modifier rather than her Constitution modifier to her Fortitude saves.

Unusual Aptitude
Now and again a character possesses some sort of talent that seems completely out-of-the-ordinary for his profession or background. A man of the church might be a highly skilled gambler, for instance, or an enforcer might be particularly knowledgeably about Renaissance art.
Benefit: The hero may choose one skill that immediately becomes a class skill for him.
Special: This feat can be selected multiple times. Each time it is selected, it allows an additional class skill to be acquired.

Unusual Approach
There are also times when a character can perform a particular task in an extraordinary manner.
Benefit: The hero may designate a new ability modifier that is applied when using a particular skill, selected from the list below.
Special: This feat can be selected multiple times. Each time it is selected, it allows another skill to be affected.

Old and New Modifiers for Skills
Climb--Strength can be replaced by Dexterity
Concentration--Constitution can be replaced by Intelligence, Wisdom
Craft (visual arts)--Intelligence can be replaced by Wisdom
Craft (writing)--Intelligence can be replaced by Wisdom
Diplomacy--Charisma can be replaced by Wisdom
Handle Animal--Charisma can be replaced by Wisdom
Heal--Wisdom can be replaced by Intelligence
Intimidate--Charisma can be replaced by Strength
Knowledge (religion)--Intelligence can be replaced by Wisdom
Listen--Wisdom can be replaced by Intelligence
Perform (dance)--Charisma can be replaced by Dexterity
Perform (instruments)--Charisma can be replaced by Dexterity
Ride--Dexterity can be replaced by Strength

Monday, July 25, 2011

Clerics in the New World

According to the Skull & Bones rulebook, clerics are not suitable for use as Player Characters because they have lost the ability to cast divine spells unless they possess a holy relic. While this helps to create a gritty, low-fantasy feel for a historical pirate campaign, it also prohibits what can be a fun type of character to play. For example, a Robin Hood type preacher who sails with pirates but tries to do right by the Lord could provide many chances for good roleplaying.

To facilitate these kinds of opportunities, this article presents a variation in which clerics can cast spells, but only ones that do not have perceivable effects. This gives them a subtle influence over the world around them, but reflects the fact that they no longer wield the power that was once common.

Subtle Spells
Refer to the following list for spells that are still permitted.

Level 0—Guidance, Resistance, Virtue

Level 1—Bane, Bless, Divine Favor, Doom, Entropic Shield, Magic Weapon, Protection from Chaos/Evil/Good/Law, Shield of Faith

Level 2—Aid, Align Weapon, Bear's Endurance, Bull's Strength, Consecrate, Desecrate, Eagle's Splendor, Owl's Wisdom

Level 3—Bestow Curse, Dispel Magic, Magic Circle Against Chaos/Evil/Good/Law, Magic Vestment, Remove Curse

Level 4—Death Ward, Divine Power, Greater Magic Weapon, Spell Immunity

Level 5—Atonement, Dispel Chaos/Evil/Good/Law, Hallow, Spell Resistance, Unhallow

Note that, because there are so few appropriate spells beyond 5th level, it is recommended that the cleric class caps at 10th level.

The D20 SRD presents many different domains to represent a diverse pantheon of deities. Among these, only a few (Good, Law, Protection) are appropriate for representing the major established faiths of a historical game. Others could be used to represent non-European or Middle Eastern traditions, such as a Mayan priestess.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Slave Ship

One of the unfortunate but undeniable aspects in the history of the New World is the institution of slavery. It was a business that destroyed lives and exploited human beings, subjecting them to toil without reward and brutal punishment for trying to regain their freedom.

In roleplaying games, however—and especially in ones with a focus on historical piracy—slavery does have one benefit: it provides a good group of enemies and opportunities for the heroes. Vessels carrying slaves across the Atlantic provide good targets for pirate raids, and the repercussions of such actions can make for hours of thrilling and engaging adventures. For this reason, detailed here are the deck plans for a fairly typical slave ship.

Note: In game terms, use the stats for a schooner (as presented in the Skull & Bones and Corsair books) to represent this type of ship. The exception is that slave ships generally were not armed, although that certainly could change if the PC's were to come into possession of one of them.

Deck Plans
Refer to the appropriate map for the following location descriptions.

1. Main Deck
This broad open space is generally unremarkable, except that it provides access to other parts of the ship. From here, stairs lead up to the fore- and sterncastles, and a wide hatch opens to the cargo decks below. There are also ladders leading belowdecks, and doors to the rear compartment for officers and the crew quarters before the mast.

2. Special Hold
Just aft of the main deck is this small chamber, with shelves for holding prisoners. Some captains kept specially chosen prisoners here to serve as “bellywarmers,” although the area could just as easily be converted into extra cabins for passengers.

3. Captain's Cabin
By far the most comfortable quarters aboard the ship is this, usually with a comfortable bed and a table for studying charts and taking meals, and perhaps even a wardrobe against one wall.

4. Mates' Cabin
Depending on the number of lower-ranking officers on board, this room usually contains a double bunk and another table, along with sea chests for holding personal items.

5. Crew Quarters
A surprisingly large number of hammocks are hung in this area, providing places for ordinary crew members to sleep. There are also a profusion of sea chests for individual possessions, creating something like a hive in which, at any given time, at least half a dozen people are sleeping. Another ladderwell leads from here to the mess and cargo hold, below.

6. Bowsprit and Head
This area sits in front of the forecastle, open to the wind and spray. The ship's toilets are located here, and it is from here that the ship's bowsprit protrudes.

7. Forecastle
Most of the time, this area serves little purpose other than providing a place from which to watch the passing sea. In times of battle, however, it can function as high ground, and at the GM's discretion a ship might carry a couple of swivel guns mounted near the stairs to deal with boarding parties or unruly cargo.

8. Sterncastle
This raised platform is a center of activity when it comes to sailing. Crew members man the ship's whipstaff here, steering the vessel. The captain or a mate is also often present, setting the course and shouting orders to the crew.

9. Upper Hold
Two rows of wooden shelves line the walls of this area, providing extra space for the ship's human cargo. This makes for really tight quarters; most slaves can sit up, but not stand, and are crammed in shoulder to shoulder with their fellows. The smell of sweat and other bodily functions is overwhelming.

10. Storage and Mess
Foodstuffs are kept in this room, which is ventilated by the sea breezes so that the smell of the cargo hold is not so strong. There is also a small but effective kitchen, allowing for the preparing of the rough meals that serve to keep the crew and passengers functioning.

11. Lower Hold
This area is set up in the same way as the upper hold, above, except that it is darker and receives even less fresh air.

12. Cargo Hold
Any non-living cargo is stored here.