Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Mucking with gender in D&D

"I want to know if he's male, female, or elf."

That's one of those phrases that came out in a D&D game this summer. Its stuck with me, because I was realizing I've wanted to do something different with gender in D&D for a while now.

Back around 2007, Z, T, and I started a 3.5 campaign and we did some collaborative world building. Basically, we decided that your character choice let you make world decisions. I'm almost 100% certain that one of my examples was if you play an elf, you get do decide how elves work. They might be come crazy hermaphrodites or smurf-gendered folk, but you're playing the elf so you get to decide. No one really ran with that back then.

While there are stories of great elf queens or princes (I'm thinking Lord of the Rings, Dragonlance, and 13th Age), elves have also often been portrayed as a bit more androgynous. Certainly the joke about Varsuvius from Order of the Stick is one of indeterminate gender. In a different way, the drow are strongly segregated into male and female sexes, but do muck up gender roles by having females dominant over males. So while gendered elves are the norm, they've got a bit of room for some non-binary gender or sex types and are still a bit transgressive in their canonical portrayals.

Likewise, dwarves have a bit of some odd gender and sex to them. Namely, it used to be the case (joke? bad joke?) that dwarven women had beards and were indistinguishable from male dwarves. This leads to a smurf type of situation, since the prototypical dwarf is a bearded male wielding an axe or hammer. Now a days, there are some nice illustrations of plenty of beardless female dwarves. Did we lost anything in downplaying the 'joke' version of dwarves though (I think we did gain quite a bit by doing it at least)?

In first edition, we saw different ability score maximums for male and female characters (generally with females having less strength potential). But we also saw gender play into some races like the Bariaur of 2nd edition Planescape. Males and females had different class options and distinct abilities. While a little odd, I'd like that brought back in a new version of Planescape. Even though the sexes and their gender roles are more "traditional" it's kinda nice to see and explore that in a way that is codified by the rules (a bit indie in style there, eh?). In 4th edition, the Feywild book presented hamadryads (female only) and satyrs (male only). I don't recall it explicitly mentioning how these fey races procreate, but it was also an interesting take on traditional gender roles (and a hold-over from earlier editions). I understand that some people might be upset by having some races enforce traditional sex and gender roles. And these are "hard-coded" in the rules: its your home-brew or variant to allow a male dryad or female satyr. But you can't have transgression if there isn't a norm to rebel against.

Rarely, we get races which are not gendered per se, but become gendered in play. Warforged or Rogue Modrons (or Shardminds?) don't have a gender, but some might adapt a male or female gender for themselves (letting players grasp onto something, I suppose. Or at least draw boobs on constructs). A few races don't show gender dimorphism or don't have strong gender roles, like thri-kreen, making the idea of gender generally irrelevant for those races. Then there's the ubiquitous boobs on dragonborn, which probably just shows the puerile mores of a few years back: how else would you know a lady dragonborn is a lady?

We shouldn't forget the iconic girdle of masculinity/femininity either and other sex-swap curses. Interesting to note that they are curses and reversible.

Also, half-elves (and half-orcs, along with half-ogres, muls, and planetouched) show that interspecies breeding happens. So sex is largely identical across many major races.

One last aside, the Fading Suns game has a vulcan/romulan or elf/drow pair of races, the Obun and Ukari. At least for the Obun, hermaphroditism (the easily graspable, two genitals kind, I believe) was featured in their chapter of their race book. Nice.

Up to now, gender/sex has basically been a joke at best in D&D. Or at least heteronormative sex and gender have been the norm. But it's easy to see why. Obviously, the gender studies crowd has taken of and gotten some of their jargon to take hold among educated college types in general. I think most people who went to college have a passing familiarity with a theory of gender-sex that distinguishes gender or gender-roles from biological sex and sexual orientation. Beyond that, I'm not sure much of the jargon or theory has caught on or is really particularly useful/needed in daily life for most people. But issues of gender in character actually are rather peripheral to slaying monsters and finding treasure. Save the princess (or prince) doesn't come into play quite as much in most D&D games (which aren't Conan d20 with its temptress class).

Things seem different now. The new PH has some more inclusive language, about considering your character of any gender or sex or orientation or whatnot. People may quibble that the wording didn't go far enough, or is flawed in one way or another. Because things are basically presented as male or female. But change is happening. Pathfinder apparently has a transgender character as their new iconic shaman. A few other books might touch on the subject or introduce less traditional views of sex and gender. But there are some other interesting things to explore in any D&D game if you're willing to get creative and make some changes for a particular campaign.

Though the term hermaphrodite is nebulous and dispreferred these days and there's many different ways of classifying intersex people today, the race of both genitals could make for some interesting stories. In the musings here, I'm going to focus on sex types here and leave implications for gender. This obviously ignores all varieties of intersexuality that happen in the real world in favor of standardized non-binary sexes in a fantasy game. A few interesting options might be (wikipedia as our guide):

  • True or Simultaneous Hermaphrodites. This race would have both sets of genitals at the same time. This might be apt for plant-based races (ala treants and treefolk, not so much dryads). But if adapted to elves or gnomes, it could also make for some interesting stories.
  • Sequential Hermaphrodites. These are beings of one sex which can change their sex. They might start out as one or the other, they might change more often. You can easily envision dopplegangers or changelings in this way, but it'd be an interesting take on elves or dragons as well. Why would an elf change sex? Does it add to or take away from any innate magical power? Is one sex more highly regarded than the other? Is the change permanent or reversible? Do all the types of that race (e.g. high, wood, dark elves) believe the same thing or even have the same biology?
  • Pseudohermaphrodites. This is the case of the hyena, where females look dramatically similar to males. You can imagine this being the case with dwarves easily, and races like lizardfolk or dragonborn may be trivially pseudohermaphrodites if there are no obvious differences between the sexes. For pseudohermaphrodites, even the genitals are, superficially at least, similar. Obviously something to consider with Gnolls as well.
These are just some of the obvious ways that you might change gender and sex elements in a fantasy (or sci-fi) setting. Elves, dwarves, dragons, treants, and gnolls aren't the only races you might apply this sort of thing to anyway. The standard humanoids (Kobolds, Goblins, Hobgoblins, Bugbears, Orcs, and Ogres) could easily be some type of hermaphrodite (kobolds, with their ties to dragons, might be key on the list here). They're generally portrayed as all male (when's the last time the random orcs you fought were female, really?). It could make for an interesting setting element, depending on how you play up these races. In fact, as the DM, it may be easier to introduce some non-binary sex and gender types here than in the PC races.

Finally, its worth remembering that the actual player characters are special. I like how 13th Age brings that to the front of the line with the One Unique Thing idea. So if someone wants to play a male dryad, that's really cool. How did it happen? What do the other dryads think? There are so many story possibilities. Just like what if your male drow is a priest of Lolth, or homosexual, or finds (intentionally or accidentally) that girdle of masculinity/femininity? A basic spell like Alter Self might really make some of these categories more fluid, if you want.

This sort of thing isn't for everyone. In fact, it might make some people really uncomfortable. But I'm really considering that dragons and kobolds and gnolls might warrant some of this treatment in my games, if only to help distinguish them from the other types of humanoids and let me play with these categories as a DM.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

5th Edition: W(h)ither Creativity?

While I haven't gotten a chance to play some 5th Edition yet, one aspect of it that bothers me a bit is the the lack of explicit creative thinking instructions that we see in the game. I call this "sheet blinders".

This is something that I've noticed when running 4th edition. Your powers list some very specific things you can do. Much to my shame, when running a one-shot 4e game years ago, a friend of mine was still thinking in older D&D mode (or non-D&D mode?) and asked to push an enemy through a window. My response was something along the lines of: "Use one of the powers on your sheet. Do you have one that pushes?"

I think it's the same thing when I play some games with folk back home and people instinctively reach for the d20 and roll perception before the DM has a chance to describe the situation. The book or your sheet explicitly says its an option, so you better do it. And you don't always think beyond the options listed on your sheet.

While I've ragged on cantrips before, I really feel this in cantrips and some of the cantrip-like powers. Look at druidcraft, prestidigitation, and thaumaturgy. They give you a relatively fixed set of options that you can do, with a bit of leeway in "harmless sensory effects". But the tinker rock gnome has the same problem. They can craft one of three little mechanical devices. Can they instead create small clockwork traps? Can ray of frost freeze things? Can I light a candle with flame bolt? Even 13th Age, which has some options of giving the wizard an array of cantrips that do things based on your spells prepared has them only do harmless effects, but what about useful ones?

Maybe other editions didn't call out as many imaginative possibilities like this either: I'll have to do some comparisons. But I think the designers missed an opportunity when the Dragonborn and Tiefling descriptions (or the uncommon races sidebar) didn't suggest variants: If you don't like the concept of Dragonborn or Tieflings as major races in your game, you could still let players play them as unique characters. Maybe half-dragons or half-fiends could have a place in your story (Inu Yasha style?) as rare or unique individuals when the description of the race as a whole doesn't fit? That's one little side-bar from the 4th edition Dark Sun setting that I think would have been well placed in the new PH.

I hope the new DMG has some of this advice stuck in it, but I suppose I can see listing very specific minor effects as a way of keeping things saner in organized play. I just hate that it might lead someone to say "no, your cantrip can't do that" rather than "yeah, but its not quite powerful enough to do all of that." Which is sad, because last summer with the playtest rules, I loved the creativity of players trying to tip bookcases over on enemies when they went Against the Cult of the Reptile God. All the talk of OSR games and such, that's one of the key elements that I want to get back into D&D. Somehow I didn't feel like that level of creativity was absent in Fading Suns or Vampire or other storytelling/indie games, but maybe the lack of creativity is one of the elements that made 4e feel a bit more like a videogame than a tabletop RPG.

That said, even if the DMG doesn't tackle this, it seems like something that a little foresight and planning can help alleviate: just tell players to think outside the box (and the bullet points in power descriptions).

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

5th Edition Wizards: I might learn to stop worrying and love the wizard

So the new 5th edition wizard has been stuck in my craw for a while. Basically since forever. But I finally sat down with the wizard and really took a look: it might not be as bad or nonsensical as I thought. I feel like the 5th Edition wizard has lost his position as king of magic a bit. But maybe its not quite as bad as I thought.

First, in terms of number of spells they can prepare: they seem to get Int Modifier + level. This is on par with Clerics or Druids who get Wis Modifier + level + domain / circle of the land spells. That's 10 more spells prepared for the cleric or druid than the wizard. Wizards don't even get one bonus spell of their specialty or anything. However. In older editions of D&D, clerics did get bonus spells for wisdom while wizards got squat. So this isn't necessarily something unique. Plus wizards do get a ritual casting bonus: they can cast spells in their books as rituals, others can only cast spells they have prepared. So the wizard does potentially have up to 17 rituals in addition to what they have prepared. Not a huge bonus, but its something. And easy to over look.

Second, wizards don't get those nifty bonus spells for their specialty. So an Enchanter can prep 100% necromancy spells. But looking at the School of magic features, most of them actually do refer specifically to the specialty school. Not all of them mind you, so Enchanters get some stupid spell-like power, and evokers get a bad/useless potent cantrip feature that seems to affect all their attack cantrips, and necromancers all gain power from killing their enemies (though they get a little more for using Necromancy spells). But. Many of these powers are thematic (if not useful/awesome) and do key off casting spells of their specialty. So there is some incentive for a wizard to prep a few important spells of their school.

Now, there's still some issues. I think a lot of spells (and other powers) are assertive in their writing, and this might limit people's choices. For example, Prestidigitation, Thaumaturgy, and Druidcraft all have a little set of bullet points which spell out pretty well all the things the spells can do. Maybe that helps with organized play and many DMs might let more creative things happen, but by the book those spells are pretty lame/limited. Ray of Frost focuses on the damage it does and slowing enemies, but I really hope that if a dungeon has a wet floor ray of frost could freeze it. I also really hope that the DMG has guidelines for adjudicating cantrips.

What I'm saying is maybe the sky isn't falling. Though it isn't as easy to adapt old settings or do some more radical homebrew as second edition and earlier.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Al-Qadim 5th Edition Patch: Proficiencies

The proficiency system of 5th edition is one that I only half like. I think I might prefer 13th age better, just because everyone won't see perception on their list and ask to constantly roll it. However, the system isn't bad. Its a little grainy, but it should work for Al-Qadim. We have a nice list of skills. This is pretty listy, so its after the jump:

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Al-Qadim 5th Edition Patch: Barbers, Corsairs, Desert Riders, and the Rest

Continuing my thoughts on updating Al-Qadim to 5th edition (see here, here, and here):  The Hakima and the Sha'ir seem to be the most class-like of the Al-Qadim kits. But what about all the rest? Well, there is a really quick/dirty Al-Qadim conversion for the basic rules out there already.

But I'm not thrilled with it since it just converts each kit to a background basically, including the crazy sha'ir which then seems to indicate you must link that background to the wizard class. In my opinion, not the role of a background. There is an interesting take on the Elemental mage: basically ditch the sorcerer having elemental provinces, then only the one wizard option gets a list of allowed/banned spells. And you don't worry about what bards and the like do. Hmm...

Fortunately, many 2nd edition kits make perfectly good backgrounds (and there's an accent explosion happen for no good reason!):

  • Áskar - Folk Hero
  • Corsair - Sailor/Pirate
  • Pragmatist, Ethoist, Moralist - Acolyte
  • Sa'lúk - Charlatan, Criminal/Spy, Urchin
  • Mystic - Hermit
  • Outland Warrior, Outland Priest, Askar - Outlander
  • Mamlúk - Soldier
  • Beggar-Thief - Urchin
  • Merchant Rogue - Guild Artisan/Merchant (Merchant version, obviously)
  • Rawun - Entertainer

The remaining backgrounds in the book can easily be renamed

  • Noble/Knight - Emír
  • Guild Artisan/Guild Merchant - Artisan (Artisan Version)
  • Sage - Fine, could be renamed Faqíh

That leaves a few kits:

  • Desert Rider
  • Fáris
  • Mercenary Barbarian
  • Elemental Mage
  • Sorcerer
  • Sha'ír
  • Barber
  • Holy-Slayer
  • Matrúd
  • Káhin
  • Hákima

Some of these can just become their own backgrounds: Desert Rider, Faris (Holy Warrior), Mercenary Barbarian (renamed just Mercenary?), and Matrud (Outcast) seem quite amenable to background treatment.

Something like the Káhin can probably just be a new name for the Druid. The Holy-Slayer is pretty much just an Assassin (perhaps replace poison with a favored weapon specialty?).

The Barber might make a nice Rogue archetype on the surface, but Rogues don't specialize till third level, and you'd presumably want that barber focus from the get-go (rogues still can do a thief or assassin things before they specialize, they don't do the barbering stuff so much). So barber is a bit better as a background too.

I've already mused on the Sha'ir and Hakima and think they'll do well as sorcerous origins for the sorcerer class.

That just leaves the Sorcerer, Elemental Mage, and those other wizard kits from the complete Sha'ir's handbook. None of the wizard kits really seem to be much of a background, and more like wizard traditions. So it makes sense to add in a few other backgrounds to support these intelligence-based things a wizard would be doing: Vizier or Qádi (Judge) and the like. Hidden Mage is another background that comes to mind for someone who is or has been keeping their identity as an Elemental Mage secret.

Now, going the other way, there's a few classes that didn't exist in Al-Qadim originally. Barbarians  work fine as outlanders or mercenaries. Unenlightened tribes from the deserts, islands, or ruined kingdoms make prime sources of Barbarians. Monks don't fit as well, but might be Fakírs or other ascetic priest types. Adding an ascetic or Fakír background might be useful, but they might also be Mystics of Nog. Druids, already mentioned above, can be Káhins or Idol priests of the ruined kingdoms (making Idol Priest a nice variant of Acolyte).

So the new backgrounds to add/adapt:
  • Desert Rider
  • Fáris
  • Mercenary
  • Barber
  • Matrúd (Outcast)
  • Vizier
  • Qádi (Judge)
  • Fakír (Ascetic)
  • Idol Priest
  • Hidden Mage
Now. This does seem like a lot of backgrounds. But it's also pretty comprehensive and, while variety might be a little overwhelming for new players, it is also a nice collection of character seeds. I think its worthwhile when playing a setting which might be a little more exotic than what most of us are used to. There are, however, so few skills and tools in 5th Edition and languages are less important in Al-Qadim, so I'm not quite sure if it'll be easy to craft about 20 backgrounds. And is it worthwhile to try to add a new skill or tool that's iconic for the setting?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Planescape 5th Edition Patch: Initial Thoughts

Planescape, unlike Al-Qadim, seems a bit easier to convert to 5th edition largely because of the lack of iconic class variants and unique magic system(s). But there are a few things that need to be converted.

Races. Obviously the original boxed set has distinct races. Races seem like relatively quick, if not easy, conversions though. Aasimar, Bariur, Genasi, Githzerai, & Rogue Modron. A friend did this with the playtest rules, but apparently advantage doesn't necessarily convert all those +1 or +2 bonuses well. I'm thinking being able to add proficiency bonus to some saves, a skill proficiency, or occasionally a double proficiency bonus might be reasonable. Some of these might show up in the DMG too.

Factions. These are a big deal. Its been suggested that factions translate to backgrounds. Well, maybe factions could be translated as backgrounds is a better way to put it. I'm not sure I like this idea though. Sure, its nice and easy (and someone else did all the work!) but this eliminates a layer of depth in the setting. A friend suggested that factions ought to have bonds and flaws and beliefs. I like this too. Inspiration seems to be quite similar to the belief points of the Planewalker's handbook. But one aspect of Inspiration points is they can be given to your friends when they need them. Belief points from a Guvner don't seem to fit when transferred to a barmy chaosman or member of the revolutionary league. Or the Fated: they can't give. At all. But that might be a conceit you need to ignore, or else you just bar factioneers from giving inspiration to their antagonistic peers. That would be a simple flaw:

Now, why not factions as backgrounds? It just feels like you lose something by not being able to use nobles and urchins and charlatans, but also you have absolutely no diversity of skills if you wanted to run a one-faction game. A few factions will be difficult to convert if you give them a special benefit, but I think it could be done. So factions maybe just as an extra layer (just as in the original boxed set) with a namer benefit, belief, and flaw. Maybe the advanced abilities could be converted if players need them.

Proficiencies. The basic set seem good, but I can see a little argument for adding a bit. I'm not quite sure what it would be though. The basic boxed set doesn't add any new proficiencies or some other second edition equivalent. The Planewalkers Handbook adds Chaos Shaping, Planar Sense, Planar Survival, Planology, Portal Feel, Spell Recovery, and Planar Direction Sense. The question is do all of these just fall into Arcana? You want to say no, but you're not sure. Chaos Shaping seems pretty unique but not all that useful. Planology lets you use a Celestial Etherscope, so that might be cool as a tool proficiency. Then there's all the languages... If we're back to having oodles of languages, I might consider giving out bonus languages based on intelligence again. It'd be cool if Plane Lore might be a unique still in addition to Arcana perhaps, and one tool (Celestial Etherscope) could help make things a little more Planescape. More than that though... Seems too much. If each plane has a "lore" type skill then each PC could have the lore based on their home plane. Then Intelligence could give a lore or a language? That seems too fiddly though.

All sorts of undecided on proficiencies here.

Spells and Magic. Most of magic works fine as is, though I'm not sure about the whole "lose power on different planes" thing. For wizards and clerics, it seems harsh. It might be better to have the penalties happen only at the extremes. When a cleric is in a rival deity's realm, not just on a different plane, perhaps. You can probably leverage the dis/advantage mechanic for augmented and diminished spells if you want. Another option is to say you can't spend your highest level spell slots on diminished magic, which seems nicer than saying you lose spell slots automatically or your spell slots themselves are diminished when casting the spell (i.e. your 4th level slot becomes a 1st level slot when you're 3 planes away from your deity, instead you can only use your 1st level slots).

Augmentation/diminishment gives an interesting option for magic items: you can give out more and limit their usefulness. A weapon that only gains its enchantment on Baator all of a sudden becomes a little more interesting (Thanks for the notion, Z.).

It would be cool to keep the augmented/diminished spells and items in the game somehow, but the original 2nd edition material is a bit... extensive. Or overly specific. Rare and memorable seems like a better option at the moment. But a few options aren't bad.

Adapting a handful of basic spells from 2nd edition stuff would also be easy and nice additions. Warp Sense seems like a great option. Surelock has some relatives, and could be adapted with a at higher levels set of options perhaps. Protection from Prime, Portal Alarm, Portal Beacon, Know Faction, Avoid Planar Effects... they'll fit on a page or two. Perfect.

So, to sum up:

  • Convert a 9 races:Aasimar, Bariur, Genasi (x4), Githzerai, Rogue Modron, & Tiefling
  • Convert 16 faction benefits and restrictions.
  • Consider adding a skill and tool; if languages are important give bonus languages (old school style).
  • Convert a couple spells. Consider how augmented/diminished spells and items might work.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Al-Qadim 5th Edition Patch: Sha'ir

Still a bit frustrated with adapting things for 5th edition. While in my Hakima musings, I said that the ha'ir and warlock were an obvious match, on closer inspection this isn't really true.

Thematically, the Sha'ir had lots of powers related to genies: identifying their works, calling upon them for aid, imprisoning them, and traveling to their realms. The warlock, however, tends to have powers that curse, blast, and befuddle their enemies and expand their senses. The Sha'ir had no powers of his own except for dealing with genies: he gained power from his minor genie servant. The Warlock is granted lots of these curse, blast, and befuddlement powers that might not be the most potent, but are easier to regain than wizard or sorcerer slots.

So, on the surface, it looks like the warlock is a great match for the Sha'ir: reflavor the Fiend to the Efreet, add in the three other elemental genies (Djinn, Marid, and Dao) and you're set! But does it really make sense for a Sha'ir to be hexing people or calling up his pact weapon? So its not just their spell list, but also the invocations, patron, and pact boons that are a bit iffy. I'm now less sure they're such a great match. Which isn't to say considering an Efreet to be a the Fiend a warlock makes a pact with isn't a great option, just that it doesn't seem to do the Sha'ir idea well.

Other options then... The wizard is exactly what the Sha'ir was not in 2nd edition. A Sha'ir tradition just doesn't seem like a great option, particularly since unlike a Sorcerer's origin feature, the wizard's tradition isn't selected right away. So it can't be used to make the sort of small but radical change to the class that I'm considering for the Hakima.

Clerics, Druids, Paladins, and Rangers just seem like a no-go right from the beginning. The bard has inspiration, song of rest, jack of all trades, and the like and this is before they choose a college at 3rd level. So meh. Likewise it's hard to imagine building a Sha'ir out of the fighter or rogue (despite Eldritch Knight and Arcane Trickster), to say nothing of the barbarian or the monk.

This, oddly, brings us back to the Sorcerer. Could there be a Sha'ir origin for the sorcerer? The third edition adaptation for the Sha'ir used the sorcerer as a frame and tacked the Gen servant onto it. Why do I keep coming back to this class that I don't like? I guess it has the fewest backed-in assumptions. Plus a first-level choice point that will let me really mess with the class without being too athematic.

So a Sha'ir is born, not made. He is a charisma-based caster who uses his sorcery points and spell slots to cast spells fetched by his gen servant. I might be able to dig it. It still leaves open the similar yet slightly more sinister genie pacts for the warlock. I guess it would look something like this:

First level...
 - Know Find Familiar, but it only summons a Gen familiar. Can cast Find Familiar as a ritual as well.
 - Reduce your spells known by 1/2 (Round up, Find Familiar doesn't count for this purpose).
 - You can send your gen to temporarily add a spell to your list of spells known. You lose it when you take a short or long rest, send the gen for another spell, or your gen is incapacitated (do familiars get incapacitated?). Give the gen an appropriate chance to find spells. Spend a sorcery point for advantage on that check and/or to have it happen sooner.
 - You gain double proficiency bonus when doing social checks with genies or identifying their works.

At later levels...
 - Consider giving an ability to summon the Jann for aide, bind genies, travel to their realms, be lent another spell from a genie, etc. These powers are actually kinda wonky and long-winded in the 2nd edition stuff, but maybe they could be simplified. Alternately, a few bonus spells, perhaps limited to affecting genies might do (Banishment, Contact Other Plane, Dispel Evil and Good, Legend Lore, Plannar Binding, Plannar Ally, Plane Shift, Glibness, Imprisonment).

Makes total sense now.

So the Sha'ir would basically be a sorcerer with even fewer spells known, but one really flexible spell known. They could gain spells from other class lists though maybe arcane classes would be easier than divine ones. I'm digging the idea so far. This also puts some of the really thematic options into the Sorcerer. I think Ghul Lord is the next clear contender for a sorcerous origin (hopefully clearer than warlock = sha'ir). Hopefully I won't spot some crap that makes this a poor match. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Al-Qadim 5th Edition Patch: Hakima

So this is where I get frustrated with the new edition. The "hard-coded" assumptions are making it difficult for me to think of how I might adapt some older material which was pretty easy in 2nd edition, but becomes more difficult with this edition. The Al-Qadim Hakima.

The Hakima is supposed to be the seer and wise-woman of the setting. In second edition, she is a cleric who has a very limited set of spells (Divination, Healing, Protection, Sun, minor access to Charm, Creation, Guardian, and Weather). She also gives up access to clerical items (scrolls in particular), as she's not really associated with the faiths of Zakhara, but rather is divinely inspired. She gains a lot of truth-seeing powers or perception abilities. She also gains access to any sorts of nonweapon proficiencies.

At first glance, translating the Hakima to 5th edition would be just creating a new Cleric domain. Maybe you call it visions or whatnot, but that's what you want, right? However. Then this vision cleric still gets stuff that she really shouldn't have: ritual caster and turn undead. Also, the Hakima will have all sorts of crazy spells which are a bit less thematic. So, while you could try to make a Hakima out of the Cleric, its not a very appropriate hack. I wish it worked. Or at least it isn't as simple as making a new domain.

So, we turn to a few other options. Paladins are a divine class, but the Hakima certainly doesn't seem like she would easily be hewn from the rock of the Paladin. Druids are another divine class, but their wild shape focus doesn't fit at all. Ditto Rangers. The bard also grants ritual casting so that's not a great option either, even if a college of visions or something could be crafted and well-themed. The other caster classes are arcane: warlock and sorcerer. Warlock seems obviously out thematically.

Sorcerer, however, has the beginnings of a fit with one crucial change: the divine visions origin would need to replace Charisma with wisdom for the sorcerer and probably grant a different spell list. Well, you could leave them as charisma based but they're supposed to be wise women. The ability change plus spell list change might be preferable to having a wholly distinct Hakima class (and since we don't have a prophet/invoker/oracle/favored soul...). The metamagic stuff might be a bit odd because some of the metamagic won't actually fit well with many of the divination spells: I don't see a Hakima blasting shit with her magic. But second edition Hakimas (ugh, I kinda want to use an actual Arabic plural there Hakimat) did get the Sun sphere... Since sorcerers only get a few metamagic options during their 20 levels, this probably isn't an issue combined with giving the Hakima access to a couple actual damaging spells.

The Hakima is a pretty narrow archetype, though it would totally fit as a build of a prophet/oracle/invoker/favored soul type class if done right. Of course, the other benefit of a prophet/oracle/invoker/favored soul type class is that it also kinda fits with the Al-Qadim setting and I've thought for quite a while now that it is totally classworthy and distinct from the Cleric.

So the easy / direct interpretation of the Hakima (cleric domain) isn't great. Next easiest option might be a new sorcerer build, but it might be a bit more of a radical change than the class will allow. Last option is to just craft a Hakima class from the raw stuff of D&D. Obviously this would be the most faithful, but... not the easiest.

The other iconic class-worthy kit from Al-Qadim is the Sha'ir. This is a genie-based caster who uses a completely different spellcasting mechanic than the normal AD&D wizard. A thematic reimplementation of the Sha'ir is a genie-pact warlock. For the setting, it is more important the a Sha'ir gains his powers by making pacts with genie-kind than the exact mechanism of sending his genie familiar out to retrieve spells for him. This Sha'ir has some similar issues as the Hakima, but the warlock might provide a much easier base to build a thematically similar caster than the cleric would do for the Hakima. It is also possible that a Genie pact might be compatible with the Sha'ir as its own class with unique spellcasting as well. But I'll tackle that in another post. Similar issues, but maybe not in quite as bad shape.

Another thing in favor of trying to use the sorcerer is that the second edition Hakima was built out of the stuff of second edition. There were two types of magic: wizards who studied their spells and clerics who prayed for their spells. Clerics simply fit best, hands down. In a third edition world though, I'd consider building the Hakima off of the favored soul: the divine equivalent of the Sorcerer. I don't see a real reason why the Hakima has to be divine rather than arcane. Also, I'm not sure there is any mechanical distinction between Arcane magic and Divine magic in the new edition.

Finally, the Hakima as sorcerer (ess?) actually lets us tie the sorcerer into the setting. Draconic origin doesn't fit the theme. The wild sorcerer could fit, but has some elemental province difficulty. There are some thematic potential origins to use: genie, yikaria (yak-men), ghul... Maybe even something crazy like Lammasu or Sphinx, though they could also fit with warlock packs somehow. But the sorcerer and warlock need some serious re-flavoring to fit an Arabian setting, so using the Hakima for this kinda kills two birds with one stone. Though a unique Hakima and Sha'ir class would promote these two iconic options to the front row a lot more, rather than hiding them under the umbrella of other classes.

Unfortunately, trying to craft a thematic Hakima spell list is problematic, particularly at higher levels. Its particularly problematic since so many non-blasting spells don't actually have the at higher levels: note in spells indicating an increased duration or more powerful effect for casting with a higher level slot. Though their list was pretty skimpy in second edition too, only one seventh level spell in the PhB. I don't like it, but I gave them some of the "sun sphere" spells (which they had in 2nd edition), which means that the Hakima will probably be blasting moonbeams constantly. Ugh. But in a fantasy world, anyone given an uncanny ability to see the truth is also quite likely to be able to blast away with their radiant enlightenment I suppose. The Hakima had random healing abilities in second edition because that's what clerics did, so if the Hakima is a sorcerer, she'd better also do what sorcerers do a bit.

Anyway, a potential sorcerer version of the Hakima is sketched out below. I'm pleasantly surprised with how it turned out, but a little less impressed with sorcerers in general. In 3rd edition, a sorcerer got more spell slots than a wizard in exchange for a smaller inflexible spell list. Sorcerers don't get a bunch of extra slots till later levels (via sorcery points) while wizards get arcane recovery early on. Meh, fodder for another day. Still kinda like this: its a simpler conversion than the cleric without requiring a full-on new class.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hoard of the Dragon Queen: First Impressions

When I picked up the Player's Handbook (must remember that there is an apostrophe and where it goes) I also impulsively got Hoard of the Dragon Queen. In part because I felt a little bad since he had sold out of PHs (must remember it hasn't been a PhB since 2nd edition) in 15 minutes and there was a stack of the adventure sitting there, and also because I didn't have the option to buy an extra PH for a friend or two.

Anyway, this thing is beautiful, but more minimalist than the PH. The pages are heavier than the PH and matte. I like it. It looks like we get art for each of the major NPCs, and a number of encounters. The art is pretty coherent, and seems to be less "heroic" or "anime" than 4e was. The ladies (and gents) even seem to be wearing practical clothing. Apparently, however, the nice map at the beginning has some typos in the place names; I'm not familiar enough with the Realms to really say much about that though. Also, the nice map at the beginning looks like a nice player prop except the names on the map seem very modern with their precise dots and all.

Its a Forgotten Realms adventure. It mentions that you can adapt it to another setting, but gives no advice for doing it. Which is a shame. Also there's no quick sidebar of locations and organizations that would need to be translated, making it much less likely that such a transplant would actually happen. Though I suppose the internet might facilitate how you'd transplant things to Greyhawk or Dragonlance or some other setting.

Appendix A is amazing. The other appendices are useful (stats for NPCs, items, etc.) but Appendix A has hooks and bonds. You can start your character off with a randomly rolled bond (or chosen, obviously) and some alternate background benefits (cult infiltrator or scholar of dragons). This is especially useful since the adventure is intended to take you up through about level 7, and presumably the second part will probably still take you up past 10 or 12 if not close to 15. In this way, it's similar to a Paizo adventure path a bit with specific regional feats and/or class archetypes. Subtle, but really nice. Its the sort of thing that every campaign ought to steal, along with low-level adventures. I'm not sure if it'd be useful for non-starter characters, but that's what the old rumor tables tended to do: give you a hook into the adventure.

There's an online supplement that includes the monsters, magic items, and spells needed to run the thing. This is presumably needed since these things are in the PH, DMG, and MM and they want to let people play the adventure with just the basic rules. Nice, but the font is atrocious. Seriously. I first noticed that the letters seemed to alternate sizes in the italics for spell descriptions, but it carries through to most of the text. This isn't a problem in the Basic rules though. Conversely, you can cut and paste from the Hoard supplement. The Basic rules seems to have some copy protection on it such that you get those little tofu blocks instead of most of the body text. Making it hard for a player to do a cut and paste job to create their own convenient spellbook. Oh well. But the font is awful. I cannot mention that enough.

How about the content of the adventure? I haven't plowed through all of that. It looks decent, though I'm not sure how well it'd translate outside of the Realms, though I suppose you can just run it as a generic fantasy world and ignore all the novels and past history of the setting with ease. Honestly, I think that's part of my biggest beef with the Realms, besides it just seems like a generic fantasy world. But hey, it's one of the original generic worlds!

So overall, just looking at the format of the thing, I like what I see. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

5th Edition: First Impressions

I snagged the last copy at one of the closest game stores about 15 minutes after they opened. First impressions of the book, in no particular order (though it seems to be negatives then positives).

There is lots of magic. Every class has a magical option. Beyond Clerics, Druids, Wizards, Warlocks, and Sorcerers whom we expect to be magical, Paladins and Rangers gain spells early and Bards are now full casters. Two of the three Monk versions gain spell-like powers. Fighter's can be Eldritch Knights and Rogues Arcane Tricksters. The Barbarian still has the least magic, though the Totem Warrior gets a type of mystic powers as well. While I don't begrudge classes having magic options per se, it is a little hard to escape all the magic. Fighters, Rangers, Barbarians, Monks, and Rogues can be "normal" or martial-only characters, but the magic is baked into Paladins and Rangers at early levels.

Baked in assumptions abound. While it looks much easier to house-rule things in 5th edition than 4th edition, the classes and their options may require careful monitoring depending on the setting. Sorcerers and Warlocks and spell casting bards don't fit well into the world of Dragonlance. Spell-heavy Paladins and Bards and Rangers likewise might not fit so well into other worlds, not to mention Arcane Tricksters or Eldritch Knights. Unique spell lists for each class makes it harder to pull off something like elemental provinces for an Al-Qadim conversion. All necromancers, for example, now gain power by using the souls of their slain enemies, for example. All druids do wildshape, making me yearn for a Shaman class.

Charisma is everywhere. Bards, Sorcerers, Warlocks, and (to a lesser extent) Paladins are all Charisma-heavy classes. More Arcane casters use Charisma than Intelligence: Wizard is the only Intelligence class. It evens out a bit if the Eldritch Knight and Arcane Trickster are counted (they're really only 1/3 casters), but they don't use spellbooks or anything.

Warlocks get a Cthulhu reference. That seems unnecessary.

Wizards seem to have lost their position as kings-of-magic. Sure, their spell list looks a bit bigger than the Sorcerer's or Bard's, but they don't have a better variety of spells at any given time than the Cleric or Druid, both of whom get the same number of spells plus maybe bonus domain or circle spells. I really wish they would have gotten a two-for-one deal on preparing spells of their specialty school or something. But even Bards get the ability to add spells which are not on their spell lists to their repertoire (Magical Secrets) which could be those nifty Paladin-only spells.  Wizards do get ritual casting, but so do Bards, Clerics, and Druids. And the number of ritual spells isn't exactly impressive. It looks like there are about 17 wizard ritual spells, compared to 4 warlock ritual spells, 4 sorcerer, 11 ranger, 3 Paladin, 12 Druid, 12 Cleric, and 12 Bard (thank you Ari Marmell). Individual Clerics or Druids might gain additional ritual spells based on their domains or circle of the land, while Bards might gain additional rituals from their Magical Secrets and Warlocks from a Pact of the Book. Most rituals are level 1 or 2, with a few higher level, and there's only 31 unique ritual spells in the book (many classes have, for example, Water Walk). I guess it isn't that Wizards aren't good at magic, they're just not necessarily better than other classes.

So many special powers. There are lots of unique, special powers for each class. I don't like this design philosophy. I prefer things a little more modular and universal. You see this particularly in the wizard, I think. Each specialty gives the ability to put spells of your specialty into your spell book easier, but that's it. No bonus memorization. No bonus spell slot for your specialty. And hard-coded powers for the Abjurer that duplicate what abjuration spells do. The Evoker's sculpt spell feature is great. It modifies how spells are used. But the Enchanter's Hypnotic Gaze or the Illusionist's Illusory Self... these just duplicate spells. A 2-4-1 deal on prepping spells, or an ability to cast with lower-level slots for a signature spell... these would just modify how spells get used and allow for some more variation. Many of the powers are good ones like this, just not quite enough.

The thing is damned pretty. The artwork seems more realistic and less anime-inspired. There's lot of people of color. Likewise there are some characters wearing clothing that is less western-fantasy inspired. So I'm pretty happy with that. The parchement-color background is subtle and doesn't interfere with reading.

I called it a great compromise edition. I think that's accurate, but it looks fun too. Just harder for me to do some crazier things (like Dark Sun or Al-Qadim or maybe Dragonlance). Some of the baked-in assumptions probably work just fine for Planescape or Spelljammer. Or other types of generic fantasy. I think I'd rather play this than Pathfinder.

There are great references to other D&D worlds in the book. Though not Dark Sun or Al-Qadim, the basics of Greyhawk, Dragonlance (!!!), and Forgotten Realms are mentioned. Quotes from some of the novels, and the Planescape cosmology is back (with bits of 4th edition shadowfell, feywild, and elemental chaos). Even in the gods section, they're giving us what we need for Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Eberron, and Dragonlance. I wondered at the lack of some setting references, like Spelljammer or Mystara or Ravenloft, or my beloved Al-Qadim or Dark Sun.

I'll have to comb through the rules, but it looks largely like what we saw from the playtest packets. More likely, someone else will blog a nice run-down of the differences, so I'll have to keep my eyes open.

There's room for growth. The Death Domain for clerics was relegated to the DMG, which we won't see till November. But it gives me a little hope that some of these nice variants will show up eventually. And despite some whining about Al-Qadim being a harder conversion than, say, Planescape or Spelljammer, you I can imagine it might not be the worst to add in a few cleric domains, alternate Wizard traditions (Sand, Sea, Wind, Flame), Genie-Pact warlocks, etc. to really make a game your own. Hopefully the DMG will have some samples.

Overall, I think this is going to be a good game. Not 100% what I wanted, but a few house-rules (really, a 2-4-1 deal on wizards prepping spells of their school, maybe limited to their intelligence bonus) and a list of available options for any campaign... I'll have to play some more and see how it all shakes out.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

5th Edition Wizards

I've played the playtest rules as a wizard a few times now, and while the rules are generally quite close to 2nd edition or 3rd edition, I still find the magic system a little disappointing. To a smaller extent I have the same problem with Pathfinder/3.5, but wizards are no longer defined by their spells.

I mean this in two ways. Both their ability to cast spells as the undisputed masters of magic, and the number and variety of spells.

First, it  seems like everyone and their mother also gets spells. Now, this was somewhat true in 2nd edition or earlier since Paladins and Rangers did get a couple spells at higher levels, but they were so few as to be completely unmemorable for me. We'll know for sure when the PhB comes out, but it looks like Rangers, Paladins, Bards, Druids, Clerics, not to mention Wizards, Sorcerers, and Warlocks, but also the Eldritch Knight fighter and Arcane trickster thief get spells. Meaning its mostly Barbarians, Monks, and some fighters and thieves who don't get spell access. That's a lot of magic!

Second, the playtest wizards have very few spells they can cast. 1 + wizard level. In the basic rules this is increased to Intelligence modifier + level, which I think is going to be a nice little boost, but Clerics also get Wisdom modifier + level. Wizards do get ritual caster, but the number of spells castable as rituals seems quite low (mostly low-level divinations in the Basic rules) and their casting time makes them a little prohibitive. But they are, at least, options.A wizard basically has room to take a few combat spells that they'll continually cast (including the boring blast cantrip, a damaging area of effect, and a single-target damage spell) and then its whatever utilities they can manage that might also have combat uses. It seems like a master of magic should be casting more variety. I suppose as a sorcerer I'd just feel more limited? Or maybe there'd be a 2-4-1 deal on spells of your specialty, so enchanters actually had an incentive to prep enchantment spells? 1+level would be great if you got to prep Intelligence modifier bonus spells of your specialty. I suppose this is partly my beef with some of the more modern design theories: I'd rather Wizard class features support their spellcasting rather than be fixed thematic powers related to their specialty. Because now every illusionist casts invisibility as their reactionary spell instead of being able to do blur or whatnot, and Necromancers will probably get some "steal your soul" deathknell type feature rather that whatever thematic spell specialty which uses the rules which are already pretty much in play.

Finally, the spells themselves seem much more focused and combat focused like the powers of fourth edition. I suppose some would count that as a feature, but I felt it as sheet blinders. Just like in 4e where you focused on the small set of powers you had, in the playtest rules I felt constrained by what my small number of spells allowed me to do. Invisibility, for example, can only be cast on a creature. The new Levitate can at least be cast on unwilling targets. Maybe its nostalgia, but AD&D spells seemed to all have variations or possible combat uses. Light, for example, could be cast in the dungeon as usual, might negate magical darkness, or cast on someone's eyes to blind them. Sure, its not the best use of a first level spell but its an option for a combat use of a non-combat spell. Now light is just a cantrip that means you don't need a lantern. They're good about letting most combat spells level up, but few utility spells have text explaining what happens with a spell when cast at a higher level, which is a huge loss. Small "spell chains" like Hold Portal and Wizard/Arcane Lock could have been linked with one just being the higher level version of the other. Similarly the various illusion spells could all be one spell, gaining additional senses or volume with higher level slots. Overall, it seems a little silly that Prestidigitation can't affect enemies in any appreciable way, yet ray of frost can do quite a bit of damage and slow the enemy (but can it create an icy patch on the floor so your enemies might slip and fall? or keep your beer cold?).

It all culminates with a loss of what I see as one of the great funs of wizards: a crazy list of kookie spells (particularly when you have to seek out strange and new spell effects). We don't need a Bigby's Gentle Wipe (or Vigorous Wipe) spell and dungeon necessities like Banish Excrement (taught in three versions, the Baatezu version which transports it to the Abyss, the Tanar'ri version which transports it to the Nine Hells, or the Athar version which transports it to a randomly selected deity's domain). Moreover, you don't have room to memorize Mordenkainen's Fluffy Pillow (or soft bedroll, or even full-on bed). I guess you can still use prestidigitation and thaumaturgy that way, but even those have a bullet point list of options, not a list of inspiration.

I'm not sure 13th Age or Pathfinder got it right with their cantrip rules and spell lists either though. And, frankly, AD&D was a bit of a mess. I guess my ideal wizard game still might not be out there.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Al-Qadim 5e Patch (with an eye towards a 13th Age patch too)

I'd like to run an Al-Qadim game in the fall, and I have two options: 1) run it with the old 2nd Edition rules, or 2) convert another system. So what would it take to do Al-Qadim well in 5th Edition or 13th Age? Looking at what minimal changes are required, it seems that 13th Age might be an easier conversion than 5th Edition, largely because of reflavoring the magic to elemental specialties, though the Icons will require more thought. The hardest bit is getting two of the most iconic elements of Al-Qadim into any patch: the Hakima and Sha'ir.

(Why no Pathfinder? I think the company is awesome, but the design philosophy doesn't float my boat. DungeonWorld might be equally awesome or Savage Worlds or whatnot, but they're also not what I'm interested in just now.)

1) Races. The basic races are probably fine. If I had the gumption I'd add in Goblins and Orcs just to remind people that Al-Qadim is a cosmopolitan setting and racial prejudices don't exist. I think this is one of the things Al-Qadim got right over Kara-Tur: its normal D&D fantasy in an Arabian setting, not what the Arabian version of D&D look like. It gives some normalcy amidst the exotic which might help people otherwise disinclined to try.

2) Classes. God, I wish I could just use the classes as written. But 5th Edition has started baking a few too many assumptions into some classes and options. Too many classes look like they're getting magic. I'm afraid to see the Eldritch Knight and Arcane Trickster, but those can be listed as non-options.

Clerics, however, might need a slight change of domains to work well. Ideally, domains would be something like: Bravery, Truth, Freedom, Wealth, Fruitfulness/Hard Work, Wisdom, Adventure, Beauty, Intelligence/Learning, Unity, Acceptance/Tolerance, Duty... Then there's the Hakima...

Wizards (and sorcerers and warlocks) might be redeemable by cutting their spell list down a bit and creating elemental provinces out of those, as Al-Qadim originally did. The elemental magic doesn't do all that much for me, but the Brotherhood of True Flame is a pretty neat and ubiquitous setting element. While the Brotherhood doesn't quite need rival elemental opponents, it would be kinda hard to let 5th edition wizards be the school-based mages they're presented as. So wizards might need 2-5 replacement specialties in lieu of the traditional 8 schools of magic (4 elements plus the "generalist" with 2 elements). 13th Age wizards might be a little easier, as you just force a reflavoring of spells to one element.

5th Edition Warlocks and Sorcerers might be a bit harder too. Both classes could use Genie-inspired builds: a genie heritage to replace draconic, and a some elemental genie pacts for warlocks. One might reflavor the Archfey and Fiend pacts with Jann and Efreet respectively. Maybe.

Bardic colleges might need to be reflavored or a new one added (barbering?). Barbering might also make a good thief scheme.

Then there's the iconic Sha'ir class. I think the genie lore and knowledge is more important than the gen per se, but I can see a warlock, wizard, or sorcerer (or bard!) getting a gen familiar and genie powers, so each class could have a build that fulfills that role. The crazy spellcasting mechanic would be cool to re-implement, but i'd have to see how the system works a lot more before considering how to implement it. Same sort of issue if one were to use 13th Age. The cheap way to do the Sha'ir then would be a feat that grants a special version of ritual caster: get a familiar who searches for ritual spells and cast them. Harder to find non-ritual spells or spells on another caster list. Doesn't muck with combat options as much. I'll have to rethink this once the PhB is released. Not sure how 13th Age would deal with this, though it could easily be a wizard talent perhaps.

3) Kits as Backgrounds.
By and large, the kits of 2nd edition can be backgrounds in 5th edition. In 13th Age, they are probably just sample character ideas. This is probably the easiest part, except for the Hakima and Sha'ir which are more like unique classes than sub-classes.

4) Spells.
As I mentioned earlier, this is just pairing down the spell list from the PhB for arcane classes and giving elemental province options. Also, because there's bound to be some gaps, update a few of the old Al-Qadim spells so each elemental province has a couple spells at each level. 13th Age might require less work on this end as reflavoring could do a lot of work here.

5) Cuts.
A few things might get cut as non-thematic. Eldritch Knight and Arcane Trickster come to mind, but those could just get an elemental spell focus somehow. The Great Old One warlock pact isn't too thematic, but maybe it's just a dispreferred element. Paladins are kinda odd in Al-Qadim. Monks can be the new Mystics of Nog, Barbarians can be from any number of unenlightened desert or island or ruined kingdoms tribes. So it might not be too bad.

13th Age might similarly need a cut, but maybe not too much from the main book. Occultist, Chaos Mage, Druid, and Paladin seem less fitting, and possible some aspects of the Bard (though poets were huge in pre-Islamic Arabia).

6) Icons.
13th Age has icons. I'm not sure what the Al-Qadim Icons might be. Probably major political forces: The Grand Caliph, The Pantheon, The Temple of Ten Thousand Gods, Brotherhood of True Flame, The Cold Gods of the Elements, The Yikaria, the Genie Lords... There's a lot of options. Each Holy Slayer group, Each Mystic group, each desert tribe... I guess there might be something to be said for keeping the number to an iconic 13 in 13th Age. Heck, any given city could be an icon, or the regions as a whole. Al-Qadim has so much described, but few (memorable?) major NPCs with world-changing agendas.

So, what's the total work-load?
2nd Edition: Nothing.

5th Edition (Basics): Convert old kits to backgrounds, possibly a new Cleric domain or two (Hakima!), 2-5 wizard specialties, spell-list triage. Something with the Sha'ir. Ban a few non-thematic options as native characters (Eldritch knight, Arcane trickster, Draconic Sorcerer, etc.)

5th Edition (Complete): Maybe add a Goblin/Orc race. Also check for new bardic colleges (Barbering) and thief specialties (Barber, Merchant) as well as other kits that might become class elements.

13th Age: Kits as inspirational list, guidelines for elementalizing arcane spells. Something for the Hakima and Sha'ir (maybe just a new talent for wizards and clerics?).

While I'm totally intrigued with testing out some new rules, I do wonder if its worth it to just use 2nd edition. Planescape or Spelljammer might be much easier conversion since they used more of the mainstream options, and races are much easier to cobble together than classes or class variants.