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.
VoilĂ !

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