19 December 2016

HMS Apollyon Using Later Editions

I've been running a local game set in +Gus L's excellent HMS Apollyon setting, but instead of using the 0E- or B/X-inspired rules my players opted to use rules loosely based on WotC's 3rd Edition. To fit my preferences better (I run things as a pretty open sandbox with a lot of improv driven by small dice tables) I've adopted some fairly significant back-end changes.
I'm not sure if someone interested in running a 3E-5E game using rules as written would enjoy as much success. It probably all boils down to preference, though, so it might work very well for someone else. Just keep in mind that we're not using anything near RaW, and my style is probably not something many choose to do.

For those curious to see just how far we deviated from the 3E rules, below are a list of the significant changes that we're using in the game to date:
  • 3D6 instead of D20
    • I hate linear probability rolls, and the players liked the idea of allowing their characters' skills (represented by saves, BAB, and skill ranks) to have a greater impact on the game. We tried it one session, and they insisted we keep it. I used the bell curve rules from the 3.5E version of Unearthed Arcana.
  • Exploration Die
    • Time management in 3E seems like an afterthought in many games. I like resource management, but I don't have a lot of bandwidth while running my improv-heavy style of game to keep track of a lot of fiddly bits. The Exploration Die rules I use are best detailed in the PDF Gus has created as part of a Player's guide. If the players are simply scouting, I use the movement rates from 3E to map movement in feet/minute and give them a heads-up as the die roll time comes near; if they're performing some kind of activity I let them know up front if it will require an Exploration roll. In either case I have the players roll the Exploration Die.
  • D6 Initiative per round, per player
    • I still allow DEX mod to Initiative, and the feat Improved Initiative is still available unmodified, but we roll a D6 every round. Henchmen get their own roll, and hirelings go on the controlling player's roll.
  • 2D6 Reaction roll
    • Initial reaction is handled on a 2D6 roll, modified by CHA and Faction modifiers (if applicable), as detailed in the aforementioned Apollyon Player's Guide. I hate that 3rd Edition doesn't have any sort of random mechanic to determine "monster" reactions, so I've done 2D6 since the beginning of 3E.
  • Experience Points
    • I don't use CR or any of that to create monsters, and I definitely don't tailor encounters (even "in lair" encounters have a random number of creatures). I may cover my monster design methods in a post at a later date, but they don't matter so much here. Initially I used 100XP/HD and 1XP/GP, divided by the number of participating members (Characters and Henchmen). This works okay, but I want to move the rewards away from fighting so I now do XP for exploration and achievements, plus 1XP/GP. I handle all of the XP calculations but I let the players know of the change and the reasoning, and they were cool with it. I do let them get XP for stuff they sell that was recovered from creatures or adventuring. Since they tend to get fence's pricing (10-20%) and they are using the detailed 3E encumbrance rules (their choice, go figure) this isn't that big of a deal for me.
  • Magic Items
    • This one has only just come up, but I have changed the enhancement rules for weapons and armor to better fit the Apollyon ethos. Masterwork now grants a +1 bonus to hit and damage for weapons, or a +1 to AC and max DEX bonus and a -1 to check penalties for armor and shields, but that bonus is the maximum enhancement that can be placed. Special magical effects can still be placed on such gear.
These are some of the other changes we use as well:
  • Light Sources are from the Apollyon Player's Guide. Candles see a lot of use by the party's rogue while he scouts, and the players don't like the attention that lanterns and even torches draw from the dark of the hull.
  • I use the 'take 10' value for a character's skill as a default unless there is absolutely some reason to have the player roll.
  • Every new character starts with 4 ranks in a Profession or Craft skill of their choice (to represent life before they became scavengers), and I let this 'background' skill be used as a Knowledge skill for things related to that Profession or Craft.
  • Apollyon-style equipment lists. When the players want to buy something, we do a quick roll to see what's available and in what style. There's no boring 'leather armor' available, and the equipment list from the 3E book is a guideline to the sort of thing they can look for, not an item specifically. Weapons are 100% Apollyon-specific (war crowbars, firearms, etc.).
  • I wanted to ditch the Diplomacy skill, but of course one of my players decided to make a 'negotiator' character so I couldn't. I normally just allow the player to convince the NPC (via convincing me) instead of making a skill check, but if someone would rather roll I guess I'm fine with that. I don't allow anyone to alter an initial Reaction more than two steps no matter how high they roll, though.
  • Since I'm using 3E and not the revised rules, I let someone with the Scry skill actually scry (or detect scrying) without needing a spell. They still need a scrying focus, though. I'm also thinking of adding the Gamble skill from d20Modern/mSRD.
For races, I've converted some of the player races to 3E (Exile, Flying Monkey, Frogling, and Merrowman), and I may put those up at a later time. Players can currently create a character native to Apollyon (Human, Exile, Flying Monkey, Frogling, or Merrowman), or a Flotsam (something else, to be negotiated between player and referee). So far, everyone's gone with native.

For classes, I'm trying to stick mainly to Fighter, Rogue, Wizard, and Cleric (for followers of the Eternal Queen) or Monk (for the Shrines of the Ship Spirits). I can see paladins being transmogrified into some sort of Inquisitor for the Eternal Queen. Most other classes haven't been explored in any detail yet, but I'm working on adapting the ecstatic priesthoods like the Ship Spirits or the Leviathan cults.

Froglings can also be Druids (called shamans and with an elemental bent), and Merrowmen have access to Psion and Psychic Warrior from the 3E Psionics Handbook. I'm thinking of retooling the Artificer from the Eberron Campaign Setting at some point, but I'm not sure. Likewise I'd like to do something interesting with the Sorcerer or 3E Warlock, but nothing's really stuck with me yet (and there hasn't been any demand, truth be told).

If anyone has any questions about the actual play experience, I'd be glad to answer them. I felt it might be necessary to put this up first, though, to forestall a lot of explanation on my part to put context to any answers to questions.