Friday, June 4, 2010

Rules Tweak #1 - Hook 'em

So continuing the Dark Sun theme . . . I’ve been busy putting together the house rules and ideas I want to implement come August. My little outline looks something like this (actually it looks exactly like this) --

House Rules for Dark Sun

  • Character Creation
    • Hooks
      • Gain a Free Feat
    • Persona
      • Beliefs, Goals, & Traits
        • Fuels Fate Point System
  • Dark Sun is Dangerous
    • Ration Points
    • Gritty Healing Surges
    • Injury Mechanic
    • Critical Fumble
    • Broken Weapons
      • Tweak WotC option?
  • Heroes are the power, not Magic Items
    • Magic Items as representation of personal skill
    • Healing Surges as a Resource
    • Never Give Up
      • A subset of Fate point system
      • Like Limit Breaks

So without further ado let’s break these bad boys down.


I like to set one session aside for character creation whenever possible. I also really, really, REALLY like the collaborative character creation presented in the DMG 2. I’m not going to go through that piece by piece. Just read it.

However, let me say that the reason I like all that stuff that frontloads the DMG 2 is because it puts an emphasis on that most hotly debated of words, roleplaying. So, when I began to brainstorm some of the things I wanted to incorporate in my Dark Sun game, this desire was my compass.

To some degree WotC has a mechanic that encourages this – backgrounds. A player gets a little outline of their past (with some prompting questions they should answer) and a small mechanical boon. Dark Sun takes this a notch further with themes. Check out this article by Dungeon’s Master to get a sneak peek at the characters. Pay particular attention to the extra encounter powers; these are granted by the themes.

But I want more, of course. Thankful WotC has me covered. SRM (Stephen Radney-McFarland, I think), author of the Dungeon article “Save My Game,” has a sweet little piece about hooks. Check his blog here for the full details, but allow me to summarize:

Hooks are essentially backgrounds for characters that pertain uniquely to the campaign you, the DM, has crafted. For example, if I’m running a campaign that I know will be very heavy into aberrants, I may have a hook called Unspeakable Ritualist that is available to arcane casters and details their possession of a book of odd rituals or their knowledge of a mentor who teaches these things; perhaps I would have a hook Fled the Deep available to dwarves who’ve lost a clan to alien horrors that welled up from beneath their mountain home. Get the point?

These hooks create a little extra tie and immersion into the campaign the DM is running; it gets people on the same page, and creates some connections amongst PCs. One little wrinkle I’ll be adding to this is that each hook also offers a small bonus feat. These will not be combat feats, or if they are they will have very limited usefulness. The key here is flavor. For Unspeakable Ritualist I may attach the EXPERT RITUALIST feat; for Fled the Deep maybe BATTLE HARDENED (check the compendium for details on these).

These feats shouldn’t make things too unbalanced, especially in regards to combat. What they do, however, is make the players feel like they are good at something from the word GO. Additionally, the hooks themselves often create more questions than they answer, thus enticing the player to get a bit more involved in crafting his character’s personality.

Hmm. I am already pushing past 500 words here. Let’s stop. I want to commit a whole post to my ideas on Persona (Beliefs, Goals, & Traits) replacing alignment and the Fate point system they feed.

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