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Scene six, seven, eight and nine have been posted, but I couldn’t allow scene seven to stand without further comment.

I was completely at a loss going into the scene in Courqan’s office. For the first time in this process, I knew exactly where the next scene was going to take place and what was going to happen in it, so I didn’t exactly need Mythic for anything. And yet, I wanted to involve it somehow, so I started asking questions and along the way it got a little complicated. Although this is one of the reasons that there’s no exposition about the scene inside of Courqan’s office, hopefully the explanation below will give some insight into the greater plot and also how I’m using Mythic.

First, I checked for an altered scene and received a negative response. Then I asked if Courqan was going to punish the boys and Mythic responded in the positive and tossed a random event at me.

The random event was NPC Action (Attainment & Pleasures). To me this meant that Courqan would force the two boys to go on an unpaid job, but I needed more information, which meant more questions. Next I asked if the pleasures Courqan was seeking were illegal. Mythic said yes. Then I asked if the illegal pleasures were drugs. Mythic said strongly no but popped up another random event.

The second random event (which I took to be just more color on the existing scene) was NPC Action (Create & Friendship). Because of the previously established details, I took this to mean that Courqan was looking for a prostitute, but to make sure it was illegal and also unsavory, I decided that the prostitute should be a very young child.

This I felt would be completely unacceptable to Sen and I asked if he would quit on the spot as soon as Courqan explained himself. Mythic said yes. I also wondered if Goran would follow suit since I was hoping that he’d have some sort of moral compass. Mythic said no.

So now I had Sen quitting and storming off and Goran staying in the office. I had just a few things that I needed to know. I asked if Courqan would seek vengeance on Sen immediately. Mythic said yes. Then I asked if Courqan would exact his vengeance using Goran. And, of course, Mythic said yes.

This is where we joined the story. With Goran being manipulated into chasing after Sen with no clear orders. I suppose I could have explored the scene inside the office, but on some level I think I like the abruptness of the scene transition. I’m also a little unsure about exactly how evil and cruel I want to paint Courqan in the narrative at this time. There’s no doubt about who and what he is after this behind the scenes look. Rest assured that if I was actually going through this playtest with other players, we would have roleplayed the scene in full, but here I think wasn’t really as necessary.

Scenes four and five are now up in the actual play section.

A quick note on the interaction between Sen and Cyese in scene four:
Going into the scene, I had intended to have a much more meaningful interaction between Sen, Hoda and Cyese, but in keeping with the goals of the project, I left a lot of the decision making about the conversation to Mythic. So, realizing that Sen was surprised by Cyese’s presence and that he was already stressed about the way the night had gone, I asked if Sen would lie to Cyese and Hoda. And, Mythic gave me an exceptional success.

Now, Sen is a decent liar, but not a great one and yet he managed to pull off a bluff check (15 vs. 14 & 12). This is where Cyese decides to cut his losses and just ends the conversation. I think clearly Cyese suspects that Sen is hiding something although he doesn’t realize the extent. Hoda knows that Sen is hiding something, since he and Sen have spoken about trancing before. I don’t think it’s a question that Hoda will fill Cyese in completely (if he hasn’t done so already).

What I think this does is set Sen up for a bit of a surprise if and when he arrives at Salmera University and Cyese already has a good idea about his capabilities. Although, with Mythic, nothing is set in stone, the story could take a wild turn between now and then.

Details about the player characters and non-players characters have now been posted and scenes one through three are now up in the actual play section.

You may have noticed that the non-player character page of the Actual Play section doesn’t include any stats while the player character section does. This is completely intentional. I don’t want the reader to have any insight into the relative power-level or skill-set of particular NPCs, I want the reader to be as surprised as the main characters are when they discover things about the NPCs. That’s not to say that I won’t be posting stats in the Behind the Screen segments, because I most certainly will. I’ll likely be posting full stats, or interesting snippets as the story goes on and as NPCs pass out of the story. Just as I intend to keep die roll information out of the actual play narrative, I want to keep the NPC list (which might get quite long) free of non-story information.

A quick note on format:
I’m writing the actual play narrative in a bit of a mishmash of styles. You’ll notice that I tend to leave a lot of detail out, but sometimes I’ll increase the granularity of the scene and break out actual dialog. There’s a few reasons for this. Chief among them is the fact that I’m both the GM and the player which means that for the most part, the details can remain unspoken because they’re in my head. But it’s also because I’m going to focus in the direction that moves the narrative along. If the event focus that comes out of the emulator and the character action point in the direction of detailed dialog, that’s what I’ll be writing.

About weapons:
In the Great City, there are very restrictive laws about armaments. For the common man in the city, there are only two things to be concerned about: no man can carry a blade longer than his hand-span (thumb tip to pinkie tip when the hand is splayed) and no man may carry a cudgel longer than the length of his forearm (elbow to the tip of his middle finger). The glaring exceptions to this are officers of the law (who carry long rattan canes (and occasionally crossbows) and nobility (who are allowed to wear swords). In practice, however, these laws are flaunted all the time. And, I’m not just talking about Sair Courqan’s penchant for wearing a small sword. Rather, most well-to-do citizens who care about personal safety have taken to carrying metal tipped canes (some of which conceal swords), and almost everyone else carries an over length swagger stick if they’re expecting trouble. In addition, enterprising members of the criminal element have realized that not only do hatchets and hand axes don’t violate either part of the law, but many common tools make effective weapons while not attracting any attention.

I’ve decided to couple my solo Mythic campaign set in the Great City with a series of “behind the screen” posts. There are a few reasons for this. First, I wanted to give a clear view into how Mythic works without actually inserting metagame information into the narrative of my actual play report. Second, I want to provide regular insight into the larger world behind the game, again, without breaking the flow of the narrative. Finally, I realized pretty early in my experiments with Mythic that exploring my interactions with the system might illuminate something about my game mastering style, and I wanted to follow that train of thought.

It may end up that writing a series of Behind the Screen posts in addition to my actual play narrative is just too much work for me to bite off, but I’m interested to see where it all leads.

When I was throwing characters together at the start of my actual play experiment, I came across two problems with Fluidity Project.

The biggest problem was that none of the characters I created had enough skill ranks to go around. To solve this problem, I proposed that every time a player spends CP on skill ranks, instead of getting one skill rank for 3 CP during character advancement, they receive a number of ranks equal to their Intelligence bonus. Although high level characters will have more skill ranks and thus higher skill bonuses than their d20 counterparts, I think that after a certain point a high-int character will  just stop buying ranks and focus on Skill Level instead. I’ve found, so far, that the characters built using this change sink a more appropriate amount of CP into skills which allows them to be far more well-rounded.

The second problem is something fundamental to making a point-buy version of the d20 system. In short, the system is geared too much towards combat and there are far too many fiddly pieces that are essential for survivability. Although I though that the biggest hurdle with FP would be min-maxing playing buying too much BAB and gaining access to powerful feats at game-breakingly early points in character development, the opposite is appearing true. I feel that there is a serious risk that players will neglect vital areas of their character like hit dice and saving throws in order to gain more utility and ‘coolness’ through feats and skills. More playtesting will reveal the truth, but I think that characters with crippling weaknesses have the potential to make the game un-fun.

As much as it pains me to move away from point-buy, to solve this problem, I proposed a level-based system that retains the core ideal of Fluidity Project. At character creation, players choose their character’s level load-out. CP are earned as described in the Fluidity Project rules and every 20 CP characters gain a new level. Each level characters gain increase statistics just like normal d20.

Starting characters have a baseline of: d4 hit dice, 1/2 base attack, 1/2 base defense, all poor saves, 4 skill levels and 2+int skill points. Characters have a total of 8 upgrades to raise their level-based statistics. Upgrades are cumulative, so d4 HD to d12 HD costs 4 upgrades. The upgrade cost for each statistic is listed in parentheses below:

Hit dice (full hit points at first level): d6 (1), d8 (2), d10 (3), d12 (4)

Base attack: 3/4 (1), full (2)

Base defense: 3/4 (1), full (2)

Fortitude save: good (1)

Reflex save: good (1)

Will save: good (1)

Skill points: 4+int (1), 6+int (2), 8+int (3)

Characters get 2 feats at first level and another feat every level.
Characters have one class and one class only, no multi-classing necessary. However, each level, characters get to swap one upgrade. So, a character with full base attack and d6 hit dice could drop the base attack to 3/4 for a level and pick up d8 hit points for a level. The following level, the character could keep the 3/4 and d8, change them back or change something else. If a character doesn’t opt to swap an upgrade, they can’t save the opportunity: either they use the swap or they don’t. Characters can only swap one upgrade per level.

I really like the way core FP handles skills, to port that over use the following: Skill level becomes equal to character level plus 3 (4 at 1st level, 23 at 20th). Characters start with skills ranks equal to Intelligence bonus and increase as so: 2+int (1), 4+int (2), 6+int (3). I think very quickly characters will max out their desired skills, so some combination of skill tricks from Complete Scoundrel (each trick costs one skill rank) and high DC/penalty skill challenges (from Iron Heroes) should be used to provide an outlet for excess skill ranks.

I haven’t been in a good headspace for design lately, and since I haven’t been able to do any playtesting, I’ve had to seek alternate means to explore Fluidity and other projects. What I’ve come up with is a solo campaign using Fluidity Project as a base for character creation, normal d20 conflict resolution and Mythic GM Emulator to handle the campaign setup and play.

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Iron Heroes brought us mastery feats, and I’m a huge fan. Here’s a quick and dirty way to bring mastery feats into a Fluidity Project game.

Prerequisites: 1 hit die, Base attack bonus +1, Base defense bonus +1
Benefit: Choose a mastery feat category (power, finesse, defense, lore, etc.). You can now select first level mastery feats from your chosen category.
Special: You can purchase this feat more than once. Each time you purchase this feat, you can either gain access to the first level of a new mastery feat category or gain access to the next level of a mastery feat category that you already have access to.  You cannot purchase access to more than three mastery feat categories. Each time you purchase this feat, the prerequisites increase as described below.
For the first selected mastery feat category, the prerequisites increase by 2 per mastery level purchased.
For the second selected mastery feat category, the prerequisites increase by 3 per mastery level purchased.
For the third selected mastery feat category, the prerequisites increase by 4 per mastery level purchased.

After purchasing mastery training, the mastery feats are purchased as normal feats according to the prerequisites listed in the Iron Heroes rulebook.

Here’s a chart of the prerequisites for quick reference:

Mastery Level Feat Category Prerequisites
1st First Category 1 hit die, Base attack bonus +1, Base defense bonus +1
Second Category 1 hit die, Base attack bonus +1, Base defense bonus +1
Third Category 1 hit die, Base attack bonus +1, Base defense bonus +1
2nd First Category 3 hit dice, Base attack bonus +3, Base defense bonus +3
Second Category 4 hit dice, Base attack bonus +4, Base defense bonus +4
Third Category 5 hit dice, Base attack bonus +5, Base defense bonus +5
3rd First Category 5 hit dice, Base attack bonus +5, Base defense bonus +5
Second Category 7 hit dice, Base attack bonus +7, Base defense bonus +7
Third Category 9 hit dice, Base attack bonus +9, Base defense bonus +9
4th First Category 7 hit dice, Base attack bonus +7, Base defense bonus +7
Second Category 10 hit dice, Base attack bonus +10, Base defense bonus +10
Third Category 13 hit dice, Base attack bonus +13, Base defense bonus +13
5th First Category 9 hit dice, Base attack bonus +9, Base defense bonus +9
Second Category 13 hit dice, Base attack bonus +13, Base defense bonus +13
Third Category 17 hit dice, Base attack bonus +17, Base defense bonus +17
6th First Category 11 hit dice, Base attack bonus +11, Base defense bonus +11
Second Category 16 hit dice, Base attack bonus +16, Base defense bonus +16
Third Category 21 hit dice, Base attack bonus +21, Base defense bonus +21
7th First Category 13 hit dice, Base attack bonus +13, Base defense bonus +13
Second Category 19 hit dice, Base attack bonus +19, Base defense bonus +19
Third Category 25 hit dice, Base attack bonus +25, Base defense bonus +25
8th First Category 15 hit dice, Base attack bonus +15, Base defense bonus +15
Second Category 22 hit dice, Base attack bonus +22, Base defense bonus +22
Third Category 29 hit dice, Base attack bonus +29, Base defense bonus +29
9th First Category 17 hit dice, Base attack bonus +17, Base defense bonus +17
Second Category 25 hit dice, Base attack bonus +25, Base defense bonus +25
Third Category 33 hit dice, Base attack bonus +33, Base defense bonus +33
10th First Category 19 hit dice, Base attack bonus +19, Base defense bonus +19
Second Category 28 hit dice, Base attack bonus +28, Base defense bonus +28
Third Category 37 hit dice, Base attack bonus +37, Base defense bonus +37

A while back I mentioned that I had come across Eclipse: the Codex Persona. Well, I’ve had a closer look at it, and it looks like my initial fears were baseless. Eclipse, while it tries to reach the same destination as Fluidity, takes a completely different path. That having been said, I found Eclipse pretty interesting. Make no mistake, it’s a really dense piece of reading and I would certainly like to actually see the system at work in a campaign environment before I gave it my full endorsement, but at first glance it seems to work. And, for the most part, it seems to work well. Since it’s shareware you can’t go wrong with a quick look, especially if you’re interested in point-buy d20.

Unfortunately, Eclipse doesn’t do away with levels, which was one of the initial goals with Fluidity Project. I wanted a free form point buy system that allowed for smooth (or fluid) character growth and gave the players something to purchase at least every game session. While I was checking out Eclipse: the Codex Persona, I came across a pair of systems that also do just that.  Buy the Numbers is a class-less, level-less, d20 compatible system that is significantly closer to that I was looking for when I first started designing Fluidity Project. Complete Control is an adapted and updated form of Buy the Numbers that has (from my perspective) better math behind the character advancement system. Complete Control also has a supplement called Complete Gear, which deals with magic items in a new and innovative way. Complete Control is also from the folks at Dreamscarred Press, so it contains a lot of native support for psionics.

Both Buy the Numbers and Complete Control are almost exactly what I envisioned when I started Fluidity Project, but the both have the same major problem: too much math. The CR system in 3.x (for all its faults) allows GMs to created balanced and interesting encounters, but it also walks hand in hand with an unwieldy XP system.

A quick aside, when I migrated my home campaign from core D&D to Iron Heroes, XP was the first thing I did away with. In Iron Heroes, there’s no magic items, so there’s no crafting, so PCs don’t need XP for anything other than leveling. Mastering Iron Heroes introduced the concept of Marks instead of XP. In a nutshell, characters get 1 mark for an encounter with a CR equal to their level and 2 marks for an encounter with a CR 3 or more above their level. Characters in 3.x are supposed to level every 12-14 encounters and Mastering Iron Heroes suggests leveling every 10 marks, but in my campaign I found that leveling every 20 marks was actually better for the game (as always, your mileage may vary). The concept of marks became the basis for Character Points in Fluidity Project.

Which brings me back to my problem with Buy the Numbers and Complete Control. Both systems use raw XP as the currency of character advancement and price all the character components out with three and four digit XP costs. For example, in Complete Control, if I wanted to purchase Power Attack it would cost me 100 XP if it was my first feat purchase or 2,760 XP if it was my seventh. In Buy the Numbers, if I wanted to purchase Power Attack it would cost me 50 XP if it was my first feat purchase or 2,100 XP if it was my seventh. In Fluidity Project Power attack costs 3 CP no matter when you purchase it. In Fluidity Project each CP represents a single equal CR encounter, but when using XP the awards vary depending on the party’s level and the equivalent CR of the encounter.

It’s my opinion that we should look to Occam in this case. Why force the players to play accountant with thousands upon thousands of experience points when they could quickly count out a few character points, buy a few character upgrades and get on with the game? Why offer the players different die sizes for hit dice when they’re playing a point buy game and can buy as many as they want? Of course, both games cap all purchases at 20 so that point is kind of moot. But, the larger question stands — Is staying close to the source material really desirable for any other reason than player familiarity? If there is a less complicated but fully compatible option isn’t that always the better option?

The beginning of 2009 has been extremely busy for me, and I haven’t had quite the time I wanted to devote to the various design projects that I’ve been working on. In addition to being busy, I had increasingly started to think that maybe Fluidity had run its course. My first thought was to place the entire project on indefinite hiatus, but, between Threshold Magic and the psudo-level system that I’m posting below, I think that maybe I’m not as done with Fluidity as I thought I was.

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In the spirit of building upon the core foundation of the Fluidity Project, I’ve come up with a rough outline for another magic system. The system is based (loosely) on the magic in Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series, where mages are merely conduits for vast magical power and don’t actually hold any power in themselves. Tentatively called Threshold Magic, the system is designed to be used with magical schools or paths which contain spells and either spell based augmentation (like Psionics) or universal augmentation (or both). Threshold Magic also makes use of a Channeling skill much like Elementalism.

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A complete and edited version of Elementalism is finally available. Elementalism brings a new trait, a new skill, more than 40 new feats and over 50 new spells to the table. It should be noted that Elementalism probably needs a lot more playtesting before it can be considered balanced. In my final read-through before posting I saw several areas that could be potentially problematic. And, while all of the scaling mechanics seem to work well at low CRs, higher level play might reveal serious breakdowns. I would hope that I erred on the side of caution and any problems at higher CRs have to do with a dearth of power as opposed to a glut.

As I’ve said before, in addition to the complete magic system, Elementalism has a strongly implied setting. The setting was inspired by Magic: the Gathering when I started working on the Fluidity Project in mid-2007. But, as the magic system evolved into Elementalism in the intervening time, the influence of M:tG was greatly diminished. Clearly however, the echos of M:tG remain in the five primal elements, their associated fluff, the concept of elemental mana and the mana symbols used as shorthand.

On a somewhat related note, if you’re looking for a roleplaying game that actually uses Magic: the Gathering cards, check out Mana Burn.

Finally, in the interest of full disclosure, Elementalism is, as a whole, an extremely derivative work. Most of the mana feats began life in Magic of Incarnum. The spells and spell effects were mostly distilled from already existing spells and a few originated from Spiritualism (which can be found in the awesome Iron Heroes Player’s Companion). The augmentation effects were inspired by the mechanics in the Expanded Psionics Handbook and the highly underrated Redstar Campaign Setting. And, the Ruin Construct and Verdant Defender were ripped almost whole cloth from the Astral Construct power.

Regardless of what may prove to be several serious mechanical faults and my concern about a perceived lack of originality, I think Elementalism holds up well as a more complete example of what a magic system would look like in a game built using the Fluidity Project. I think that Elementalism should hold its own with the core Fluidity magic system, Ethercraft and any other magic systems that are compatible with the Fluidity Project.

Ethercraft was meant to be my answer to 4th Edition’s version of magic. All of the groundwork was done in late 2007 before anything concrete was known about 4th Ed. Of course, now we all know exactly what 4E is all about. And, as it turns out, what I extrapolated from the early reports was pretty far off base.

What the preview contains should be enough to get a feel for the flavor, terminology and structure of the magic system.

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Way back on July 17th I was preparing for the first playtest of the Fluidity Project and I mistakenly gave Shadowfoot credit for inspiring (and informing) my collection of feats. As it turns out, the old post that I read on the WotC boards (which appears to not exist anymore), was written by Talen Lee. Mea culpa, I should have paid better attention.

Not to take anything away from Shadowfoot, his collection of feats is wonderful and should be used as a resource for anyone wishing to make use of the Fluidity Project.

Tome of Battle already includes two great feats for non-martial adepts, Martial Study and Martial Stance. For a character made with the Fluidity Project, these feats are a boon, but the distinct lack of a high initiator level or a recovery mechanic means that such a character cannot make full use of the maneuvers presented in Tome of Battle. The below feat is designed to alleviate this problem.

Prerequisites: Base attack bonus +3, Martial Study (see ToB), Martial Lore Rank: Trained (see ToB)
Benefit: Your initiator level is equal to your base attack bonus. You can ready a number of maneuvers equal to 1/3 of your total hit dice (minimum of one). You can recover your expended maneuvers by spending a full round action to do so.
Normal: A character’s initiator level is equal to half his total hit dice.

The Tome of Magic also contains feats that are a boon to characters that wish to dabble in either soul binding or truespeaking. The below feat, True Soul Binding, may be a bit powerful. If you find it to be so, requiring a player to purchase the Bind Vestige feat for each vestige they wish to have access to would be a good fix.

Prerequisites: Bind Vestige (see ToM), Improved Bind Vestige (see ToM), Practiced Binder (see ToM)
Benefit: You gain the soul binding special ability. For the purposes of binding vestiges, you are treated as a Binder with a level equal to your hit dice (see ToM). You gain no other features of the Binder class, this feat only allows you to bind more powerful vestiges, benefit from all vestige abilities when you bind a vestige and purchase feats which have Soul Binding as a prerequisite.

Some more homebrew vestiges can be found here. There are also several official sources of vestiges:
Dragon Magic (Ashardolon)
Dragon Magazine #341 (Primus and Kas)
Design and Development article (Vanus)
Mind’s Eye article (Abysm, Arete, The Triad)
Cityscape Web Enhancement (Astaroth, Deshartis)
Class Chronicles: Binders (Zceryll)
Dungeon Magazine #148 (Ahazu)
Dragon Magazine #357 (Astaroth, Ansitif, Cabiri)

The utterance feats (Minor Utterance of the Evolving Mind, Utterance of the Evolving Mind, Utterance of the Crafted Tool and Utterance of the Perfected Map) should suit a character built with the Fluidity Project if the skill prerequisites are converted. However, if a player wishes to speak utterances higher than 1st, allowing Utterance of the Evolving Mind, Utterance of the Crafted Tool and Utterance of the Perfected Map to grant access to higher level utterances shouldn’t be a game breaking change.

The other option for a DM who wants to delay a character’s access to higher level utterances, but who wishes to take full advantage of truespeaking is to keep the existing feats that allow a character to select 1st level utterances in each lexicon. And to use the three feats below.

Truespeak Rank: Trained, Skill level 9, Minor Utterance of the Evolving Mind, know at least three utterances
Benefit: You learn one utterance from the Lexicon of the Evolving mind.
Special: You can purchase this feat more than once.

Prerequisite: Truespeak Rank: Skilled, Skill level 12, Minor Utterance of the Crafted Tool, know at least four utterances
Benefit: You learn one utterance from the Lexicon of the Crafted Tool.
Special: You can purchase this feat more than once.

Prerequisite: Truespeak Rank: Mastered, Skill level 15, Minor Utterance of the Perfected Map, know at least five utterances
Benefit: You learn one utterance from the Lexicon of the Perfected Map.
Special: You can purchase this feat more than once.

Unfortunately, as cool and flavorful as Shadow Magic is, there are no plans currently in the works to offer a conversion for it. The core magic system in Fluidity Project could be retrofitted to provide an avenue for those players who wished to pursue Shadow Magic. But, right now, all the focus for the project is directed towards finishing Elementalism and the third magic system — Ethercraft.

In anticipation of Saturday’s playtest, I’m posting the three major playtest documents.

The first is a quickstart guide. It contains everything you need to get a quick game of your own off the ground. Of course, at the very least you’re going to need a copy of the SRD (found here, here or here) as well. And you’re probably going to want a copy of the Iron Heroes book and most likely the PHB, DMG and Monster Manuals.

The second is a magic system. Like the document says, this magic system is designed to let players use all of their favorite spells from any book. If you’re not a fan of trance mechanic, feel free to modify it or scrap it all together. I favor more limitations on spell casters, but, your mileage may vary.

The third is an unindexed feat document. I would have liked to have had the time to put in a big, easy to reference chart at the beginning of the document, but that will have to wait. The document contains the core class features converted to feats as well as a compilation of feats from the SRD and from a very old post on the WotC message boards by Shadowfoot. Shadowfoot’s work is currently maintained here and here. You can also find a lot more useful feats here.

There is a second magic system that I’ll be playtesting on Saturday. It’s a complete magic system that comes with a strongly implied setting (based loosely on Magic: the Gathering), a new trait, a new skill, over 40 new feats and over 50 new spells. I’ll post the full rules after they’re playtested and the document goes through another round of editing.

Edit: It has come to my attention that the very old post on the WotC message board was not written by Shadowfoot as I had initially thought, but was rather written by Talen Lee.