Thursday, September 16, 2010

Arduin Grimoire, part 3

Next up in our whirlwind tour of Dave Hargrave's Arduin Grimoire is five pages of random dice charts.  This probably doesn't comes as a surprise to any of my regular readers, but I friggin' love random dice charts.  Especially ones with results that push the flow of play in unanticipated directions and there's some opportunities to do exactly that on these Special Abilities Charts.  They're a lot like the random charts in Rolemaster/MERP where you spend some of your background points and try to come up with a random ability you like, only crazier.  The charts are broken down by class, one chart for "all warrior types and barbarians or those of similar nature", one chart for "mages, illusionists, druids, alchemists, medicine men, psychics and those of magical natures", one chart for "clerics of all types, bards, singers, witchhunters, pallidins and all of a more religious than magical nature", one for "thieves, monks, ninja, highwaymen, corsairs, assassins, traders, slavers, rangers, and all of those with a more or less 'secret' nature" and a final chart for "technos, normals, sages, and courtesans - all those not covered".  So druids use the M-U chart meanwhile rangers and traders use the thief chart.  That's not how I would have done it, which is one of the reasons Hargrave work is so fascinating.

I'd love to reproduce these charts in full, but I'm sure the folks at Emperor's Choice wouldn't appreciate it.  Each one is a percentage throw with about 30 to 40 possible results.  Most of the results are positive or a mixed bag, with a few outright character flaws.  Here are three results each from the first two charts.

Fighter et al.

17.  +1 with all crossbows, javelins, and throwing darts, but -1 versus cold
62.  A coward, -8 save versus fear and always have a 50% chance of fleeing
95.**  You are a secret were-creature, roll to see what kind.

The double asterisk indicates that anyone rolling that result is 98% likely to be secretly chaotic and 50% likely to be secretly evil.  One other result is so marked, the one where your dad is a demon.

MU and such

09.  Fire and light competent, _3 versus blindness but -3 versus insanity.
42.  Ability to smell poison (50% accurate), but -3 to its effects
54.  Dragon friend (also speak high and low dragonish)

"Competent" is a term used in many entries on the MU chart and a few on the cleric chart.  It's obviously related to spellcasting is some way, but if there's an explanation of the term in the first Grimoire I have yet to find it.  Armed with just this book a DM would have to figure out what that means in their own campaign.  If you own Welcome to Skull Tower, the second volume in the series, you can find an explanation in the second section labeled "Notes on Magik" (p. 76).  It means that saving throws, damage dice and other variables are 2 pips or dice in the caster's favor.  E.g. A fire competent MU is +2 on all saves versus fire and lobs fireballs that are -2 to save and do 2 extra dice of damage.

Folks who own the book should feel free to share a favorite result I missed in the comments, cause I need to move on to the new classes.  Hargrave introduces seven new classes in the first volume of the Grimoire: trader (merchant), psychic, barbarian, rune weaver, techno, medicine man and witch hunter.  Most of these classes come with so many oddball rules and weird abilities that I could do a whole blog post about each.  Here I'll just hit the highlights that interest me the most.

Trader

Gain 10xp per 1,000gp profit from their mercantile ventures.  Cannot advance past tenth level unless they lead a caravan or command a trading ship.  Gets monk abilities (??) starting at ninth level.  At 100th level they automatically become guildmaster of their country.

Psychic

To qualify for this class all your stats except intelligence must be lower than 13.  I keep this class in my back pocket for when someone throwing 3d6 in a row comes up with a complete dud.  So far no takers.  Over the course of their level progression they get a passle of percentage abilities, mostly detects.  At first level all you get is "Intuit Traps" but at base 75% it beats the pants off the thieves and dwarves in the party.  At 50th level you gain the ability to explode people's heart with your brain.

Barbarian

A berserker type.  As written the class pretty much plays the game for you.  50% chance of charging every fight, except versus undead where you have a 10% chance of fleeing in terror and a 60% chance of an orderly retreat.  At first level you have a 60% of berserking against your will, which will last 19 rounds.  You get more control of your own PC if you survive to higher levels, but I just don't see the point of undermining player autonomy the way this class does.

Rune Weaver

In short these are slow magic-users.  They take much longer to weave their spells but can attempt to cast spells at a higher level than MUs and are really good at unweaving (i.e. dispelling) spells.  The details of this class tie directly in with Hargrave's mana-based magic system, so I won't say anything more until we get to the magic section.

Techno

I written about this delightful class before.  I can't hardly oppose a D&D class that allows you start tinkering with atomic reactors at 40th level.

Medicine Man

Your basic shaman type.  On the one hand nowadays I don't think I need a separate divine spellcaster for each culture in a campaign, but on the other this is the perfect class to stat up the fat witch doctor from Gilligan's Island.  Also each member of this class gets a pet puma or wolf every three levels and at 6th level can cast spells by playing drums.  I would go with bongos or maybe that big drum Ricky Ricardo used to play when he sang "Babalu" down at the club.  I really wanted to include a screencap of that witch doctor dude at this point in the post but google image search failed me.  So here's Gilligan with a robot instead.

from The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island.

Witch Hunter

Last up is a great class for folks who want to ruin the fun of everyone else at the table.  They are "religious fanatics (99% Christian) that are obnoxiously 'holier than thou' in their attitude towards just about everyone and everything".  Witch Hunters always attack Chaotic types and go after Neutrals 75% of the time.  Their righteous fury has all same drawbacks as barbarian berserkergang.  Basically these guys take all the worst stereotypes of paladins and make the rules enforce their jerkish behavior.  And you can bet your ass that I wouldn't hesistate to use them as bad guys.

One interesting quirk about the Witch Hunter: it may be the only class I've seen outside of Men & Magic that has a column Chainmail-style Fighting Capability.  A 1st or 2nd level Witch Hunter fights as a Man, a 3rd level hunter as a Man +1, etc.  That suggests to me that this class was one of the earliest Hargrave wrote, as no other class in the book uses this quickly-dropped-by-TSR notation.