Thursday, July 23, 2015

Old School Al-Qadim

Its no secret that I love Al-Qadim (evidence) and think Al-Qadim did a reasonable job of getting the Arabian Adventure for D&D right. I think I might try to run an actual game of it in the fall: possibly in-person or possibly on roll20. So I wanted to catalogue some of my thoughts on how to fix it up.

1) If I ran it 5e style, there's some changes that need to be made. I've posted quite a few thoughts on this before.

2) If I run it with AD&D 2nd, I still want to consider a few changes. This is what I'll focus on.

Why change things if I want to run original Al-Qadim? Simply put, I want a few more options and to really utilize some of more modern ideas to bring it up to speed. Plus, it's actually fairly easy to mod second edition because of that old Core Rules CD-Rom which included all the books in .rtf format. So a cut-and-paste player's handbook will actually be quite easy to compile.

Races. The original Al-Qadim book came out before Complete Book of Humanoids. City of Delights makes it clear that some of the monstrous races are totally appropriate for Al-Qadim, and I'd like to take them up on it. Its totally fitting that Ogres and Goblins are PC races as the racial enmities are eliminated in the setting. I think I'll focus on Goblins and Ogres just to shy away from the more "common" orcs and also keep things a bit more limited. I'm tempted to add in Githzerai because I've fallen in love with them, but they might not be needed. I also might use Skills & Powers to re-create Dwarves and Gnomes basically by giving them something to replace the racial enmity. That said, this all might be useless if I have some mechanism to encourage playing humans: i.e. everyone rolls ability scores in order, if you're human you can re-arrange the scores as you like. Nonetheless, I like the idea of having some options.

Classes. I finally found a forum post on Dragon's Foot which touches on people's experience with some less-standard classes. Basically confirming my intuition that the Spells & Magic classes (Crusader, Monk, Shaman) along with Vikings (Berserker, Runecaster) and Scarlet Brotherhood (Assassin, Monk) classes are reasonably balanced with the core classes. Meaning I'll consider adding in the Crusader and Shaman as options, and possibly a couple others if I can work out the details. Well, crusader might be a bit stronger than the cleric, so maybe a tiny bit of toning it down. I'm also considering the magic of Spells & Magic for Al-Qadim, which might let wizards use channeling (Elemental Mage, Sorcerer & Sha'ir). Channeling basically ends up giving a boost to low-level mages who recover spell points over the course of the day, while limiting higher level mages by exhausting them when they cast their highest level spells. I might ditch Channeling for Sha'irs because they already have their own crazy system of magic. Temple priests would use ritual prayer (Presumably crusaders & clerics and Shamans) and free priests (presumably de-martial-art-ed Monks and Hakimas) would use conditional magic. These two systems seem like they limit clerics by requiring more time to cast their highest level spells (ritual prayer) or enforcing a code of conduct on mystics, visionaries, and prophets (conditional magic), they're otherwise your standard vancian casters. This does mean I'm considering converting the Priest/Wizard kits to classes, which brings me to kits. I'd also consider adding in the Skills & Powers rogue skills to the rogue classes, because why not? Rogues are a bit weak as it is and more skills ain't going to really hurt them. Because I'm thinking of having the game be human centric, I'm also considering letting normal humans multiclass. Though perhaps only the only options are Fighter/Whatever or Thief/Whatever, and maybe they'd be more like 2/3 one class and 1/3 the other. Not sure how stupid/wacky that would end up being.

Kits. Because I think the wizard kits are really classes, I'd need to borrow a few kits for these classes to use. There are some fairly reasonable options, such as something for temple priests, religious judge, scholars, viziers, and secret hidden mages. Maybe throw in some sort of ascetic and its pretty much good to go. I'm basically tossing out all the Complete Sha'ir's Handbook kits at this point, but I might be willing to re-consider something like the Mystic of Nog, because I love the Ruined Kingdoms. Maybe it can basically take that Monk from Spells & Magic but give them one elemental province of wizard spells plus unarmed fighting...

Proficiencies. I'm leery about these, but I might use them. Basically as long as they're based on a character's background, they're probably reasonable. So maybe what should happen is both the player and I should select proficiencies for their character and then we could see how much we agree. Also, I could just eliminate the cheesy ones like blind-fighting or require weapon proficiencies be spent on those guys.

Spells. I'll probably cull a few options from the spell lists to keep them manageable, but secretly add in whatever sort of crazy I want from the Spell Compendium. As one should.

Plot. I've got a few ideas linking some of the published modules and adventures for the Ruined Kingdoms. I'll have to bill it as an exploration game, because it will be. I'd love to have it start out with seeking out ruins further afield in the Ruined Kingdoms while a noble PC or patron NPC plots to start a whole new city. Depending on whether the players want to be part of the Enlightened Faith or the Old Faith will steer them towards certain enemies, but I'd imagine that eventually the game would involved actually founding a colony and dealing with some of the affairs of ruling a city. Cue Birthright rules as needed. There's a few obvious factions to involve: Enlightened Faith, the Old Faiths of Shajar and Ragarra, four+ rulers of local city-states (Dehliz, Kadarasto, Rog'osto, Afyal), the Brotherhood of True Flame, one or more Holyslayer groups, one or more Mamluk orders, plus whatever independant NPCs I have in mind. Running a city would, potentially, necessitate a few different characters: 1) a noble to rule, 2) a wizard for the magics, 3) a priest to play pontiff, 4) possibly a guild-rogue for the underworld, 5) a merchant-rogue for trade, 6) a holy slayer for all the jazz, and 7) a sha'ir for genie dealings. Maybe we can ditch one for simplicity and have an NPC or two as needed.

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