The Gunslinger for 4E

I’ve converted, very roughly, the Pathfinder gunslinger to 4E, mostly as practice to get the hang of building 4E classes. TauNeutrino, Tolan, Boomer with a Hard R, and erachima on the 4E Discord server all provided crucial advice and feedback in the design; many thanks to them. You can download the class here.

For those of you who might be following this blog for the OSR side of things, don’t worry! This hasn’t entirely turned into a 4E blog, I’ll be posting more old-school material soon too, it’s just not (and was never intended to be) exclusively old school.

Backgrounds for 4E

There are a number of good reasons to move away from choice of species as a key mechanical element of character creation; far more eloquent things have been said about it by better-informed people (James Mendez Hodes, for example, if you’re looking for somewhere to start), so I will simply summarize. Having “races” of characters with shared psychological and cultural traits easily gets uncomfortably bio-essentialist; the specific choices of those traits in the standard Tokein-descendant fantasy canon often directly invoke real-world racial and ethnic stereotypes; and, even aside from the cultural/moral concerns, from a purely practical DM’s perspective elves, dwarves, and orcs simply don’t fit in many settings.

Flipping to the other side of the nature-nurture spectrum, and taking several leaves out of 5e’s book, I propose backgrounds as a replacement system that fills the same role. The unpleasant implications of “Eladrin are just smarter than everyone else” aren’t present in “Sages are just smarter than everyone else;” intelligent people are more likely to be attracted to the profession, and the experience and training of a sage also undoubtably benefits a character in ways generally classified under “intelligence.”

Additionally, 5e’s background features help patch what I see as one of the weaknesses of the 4e system; for those not familiar, each 5e background comes with a significant albeit mechanically-vague benefit, which makes the character extremely effective at solving specific kinds of non-combat problems. For example, a Sailor’s contacts allow them to call in favors to get free transportation by ship for the party. The ritual system in 4e (and the related martial practice system) give 4e characters some tools of this type, but they are not nearly sufficient for my tastes. I’ll likely elaborate more on this point in a future post, but for now suffice it to say that giving characters more ability to specialize in solving specific types of non-combat problems—just as classes and roles let characters specialize in specific types of combat problems—is another benefit of the background system.

You can get my current version of the backgrounds here. Most of them are bits and pieces of 4e races cut apart and re-assembled with 5e background features stapled on. They’ve worked fairly well thus far in playtesting. None of my playtesters have chosen the official yet but it’s one I’m mildly concerned about in power level, due to the interaction between the official’s Authoritative feature and the Polearm Momentum feat (Martial Power); I may post an update if needed.

Exalted/GLOG Rules Update

I’ve assembled an updated version of the “Exalted for the GLOG” rules, combining both of the previous two posts and also adding some new content. In particular, I have what I believe to be altogether new tech for the GLOG, albeit not new tech overall: class variants, which replace one or more templates or partial templates from an existing class. I believe this version is almost sufficient to begin testing, missing only the bestiary, which is currently also complete enough to test but not in a publishable format.

As some of my good colleagues have pointed out, this perhaps requires a bit more explanation. Exalted is an RPG that has a cool, flashy, stupidly-high-power-level setting, but the misfortune to be built on the World of Darkness rules-engine. The default PCs/protagonists are—approximately, at least—people who tried to do something impossible, and were told by the setting “no, actually, that’s too cool to just let you fail at it, let me just graft a shard of an ancient hero’s soul onto yours real quick, enjoy your new superpowers.” Other PC options include—but are hardly limited to—the descendants of people who were magically altered to be draconic super-soldiers to serve as infantry in a war between gods, and passed down some of that power down their bloodlines; undercover special agents of Fate itself; and magitech cyborg communist superheroes. (Alas, I have not yet ported over the latter two.) The gods are active and present, and if you learn the right martial arts style and are willing to deal with the geopolitical consequences, you can beat up some of the weaker ones and take their lunch money. Like I said, it’s a stupidly-high-power-level setting.

So, at this point you’re probably wondering—why adapt it to the OSR, and even in the OSR, why the famously low-power-level GLOG? Aren’t the GLOG’s mechanics antithetical to what the setting’s all about? Aren’t superpowered starting characters antithetical to the OSR design philosophy?

As I see it, this is just a matter of scale. The OSR doesn’t require characters that are weak by any absolute standard—merely ones that are weak relative to the challenges the world poses, and so too far in over their heads to resolve every situation with brute force. A low-level D&D character facing numerous bandits, ingenious kobolds, and an owlbear—and a newly exalted Solar facing dread pirates, dragon-blooded agents of the vast empire that’s decided they’re demons, actual demons, and champions of the Lords of Death—differ only in their special effects budget.

Similarly, the GLOG relies mechanically on small numbers and simple mechanics. How can a GLOG character be expected to duel a demon prince on the plummeting wreckage of airship, when a demon prince has a hundred-odd hit-points? The only reason you need to give a demon prince a hundred hit-points is that you need him to be fifty times as strong as a kobold. If you say the kobold’s not gameable content, not something we care to model, you can just make each individual hit point bigger, and give the demon prince ten hit-points. A Strength of 10 isn’t an average human’s strength, it’s an average hero’s; six points of Strength lets you shatter a wooden door, and 16 lets twist a horseshoe into a pretzel, but someone who can only barely punch through a wooden door is going to be dealing -1 damage with all their melee attacks just like any other Strength-6 D&D character. The numbers are the same; the way those numbers represent the world is what’s different. And, to be fair, these classes do tend to be stronger than typical GLOG classes—though mostly in the way their templates allow them to operate on a larger scope, rather than having bigger numbers.

That actually brings me to a different point—this system’s built on the GLOG, and thus is at least mostly compatible with some other GLOG hacks. You could, theoretically, play a character with a class from some other hack. And, in fact, I’d recommend it to model what Exalted calls “mortal heroes.” Imagine a typical D&D adventurer. Perhaps they carved a fiefdom from the wilderness with their bloody sword-hand, or cleaned out the warring gangs from the docks of their hometown and set themselves up to control the city’s trade, or uncovered in a crumbling ruin ancient secrets of thaumaturgy lost since the fall of the Shogunate—in short, they did the sort of things that would propel a character in a conventional D&D system to the brink of Name Level. And, in the wake of such deeds, they ceased to be a 0-level Elite Warrior with a two-line statblock, and gained their A Template—the proof that sufficient quantities of sheer competence can allow a mere mortal to stand beside or against the gods’ champions.

Does this blend of old-school grit with cinematic flash appeal to you? Is 5E not quite the system you want for superhuman heroes? Do you just want to see what a train-wreck my philosophy produced? If you do, get the rules here.

Rule-Breaking Laser Angel: A Not Altogether Serious GLOG Class

You are a RULE-BREAKING LASER ANGEL, for those who implemented the laws of creation are forever above them.

Starting gear: Six wings, too many eyes, lasers, a “dead or alive” bounty on you with a reward no mortal mind can comprehend the nature or value of
Skills (1d4): Reassuring mortals, loopholes in natural laws, panicking mortals, optics

A: This Is Not A Gun
B: Ad Caelum Per Caedes, Too Many Eyes Reprise
C: Who Weaves The Narrative
D: A Time For Every Purpose Under Heaven

This Is Not A Gun: What is a rule-breaking angel without a rule-breaking laser? To attack with your lasers, roll 2d10 + 1d10 per RULE-BREAKING LASER ANGEL template + 1d10 per point of Dexterity bonus. Each 7, 8, or 9 is a SUCCESS, each 10 is a SUCCESS and adds an additional 1d10 to the roll. A target with leather-equivalent armor subtracts one SUCCESS, with chain-equivalent subtracts two, and with plate-equivalent subtracts three. A target with cover or otherwise favorable defensive conditions subtracts an additional SUCCESS. If you have at least one SUCCESS remaining, the rule-breaking laser penetrates their armor, and inflicts 5 points of damage per remaining SUCCESS.

Ad Caelum Per Caedes: You no longer gain experience points. You gain an additional template, whether RULE-BREAKING LASER ANGEL or otherwise, whenever you defeat a LEGENDARY FOE.

Too Many Eyes Reprise: You are 80% likely to find anything hidden in a location when you SEARCH it, regardless of whether or not your method of search would logically turn up the hidden element.

Who Weaves The Narrative: You have a pool of three STORY POINTS. You can expend a STORY POINT to establish a fact, defining a property of the scene or setting. You can expend a STORY POINT when you roll poorly to reference a detail of the current scene and reroll the die. When you have the opportunity to make a justified but bad choice, you must spend a STORY POINT if you want to avoid doing so; if you don’t, instead you regain an expended STORY POINT.

A Time For Every Purpose Under Heaven: Once you’ve acquired this template, at any time, you may hand the character sheet of a freshly rolled character to your DM. If you do, the following things happen:

  • The RULE-BREAKING LASER ANGEL vanishes in a flash of obliterating light. Each entity within reach must Save vs Death or cease to exist. No other saving throw can be substituted, even if another rule specifies otherwise; if the only saving throws on a character sheet are Fortitude, Reflex, and Will, that character has no chance of survival. Only a saving throw earmarked for Death can save a character.
  • The former DM is now playing the character you just handed them, which appears in the crater left by the previous clause, assuming the ground failed its saving throw, or otherwise in the location the RULE-BREAKING LASER ANGEL previously occupied.
  • You are now the DM. You have one real-time minute to look through any scenario notes the previous DM had on hand before play resumes.

GLOG Class: Cardinal

Between my Bird with a Sorcerer, the Haruspex’s Knife Hawk, and the Mad Cartographer’s Raven, an all-bird adventuring party seems remarkably plausible. To fill in the key remaining gap, I provide below a divine bird, intended for use with a typical Fantasy Catholicism-type religion. My apologies to any Catholics or ornithologists it may offend.

You are a CARDINAL, a reddish sparrow-like bird that participates in papal consistatories and conclaves.

Starting gear: A bag of seeds, the social status of a prince, a wide-brimmed hat, a gold ring, fluency in the language of the Church
Skills (1d4): Seed lore, ecclesiastical law, nestcraft, leading religious services

A: Passerine, Authority
B: Confession
C: Hymn
D: Bird of Pray

Passerine: You are a small bird. You can carry only one item besides the hat and ring you wear. You can use no weapon other than your claws, which deal 1 point of damage plus your Strength bonus (if positive) to most creatures, but 1d10 plus your Wisdom modifier to demons, the undead, and other creatures of Hell. However, you can fly as fast as a human can run, and your small size and divine grace protect you as well as plate armor would protect a human.

Authority: When you speak on matters of faith, only another CARDINAL, the Pope, or a figure or comparable standing in another religion can contradict or argue with you. If something happens to the Pope, you can vote on who the next Pope will be. It could be you.

Confession: When a character confesses a sin to you, once during the next day they can reroll a failed saving throw related to that sin. You cannot tell anyone what sins are confessed to you.

Hymn: When you sing, usually in a sequence of two-part whistles, you bless and rally your companions. They take 1 less damage from each damage die in any round that you sing instead of taking any other action.

Bird of Pray: Outside of combat, you can pray for divine intervention to restore an ally who has been cursed, transformed, possessed, poisoned, blighted, bewitched, enchanted, petrified, or diseased. Your base chance of success is 5%, plus 5% for each day since you’ve successfully requested a miracle. You cannot request more than one miracle per day.

Princes of the GLOG

What’s Exalted without splatbooks? And so, as a followup to my previous port of Exalted to the GLOG, I’ve written a splatbook for the Solar Exalted’s imperial nemeses—the Dragon-Blooded. Though they act on a less grand and flashy scale than the Solars, they have access to substantial resources, reflected in their somewhat absurd collections of starting gear. Also included are seven martial arts styles popular among the Dragon-Blooded.

GLOG Class: Bird with a Sorcerer

You are a BIRD WITH A SORCERER; you have made a pact with a humanoid who provides you indirect access to great magical power in exchange for good advice.

Skills (1d4): Library research, formal etiquette, ritualcraft, projecting authority

Starting gear: A degree from a university nobody’s heard of, a mostly-empty logbook, a fancy pen and ink, a magnifying lens, a letter of introduction

A: Bird, Sorcerer

B: Scholar and a Gentlebird, Utility Magic

C: Resonant Ward, +1 Utility Magic

D: Evocation and Invocation, +1 Utility Magic

Bird: You are a bird. You can fly, and speak both the language of your kind and a humanoid language your sorcerer knows fluently, but you can only carry one small item at a time and can’t wear armor.

Sorcerer: You have a sorcerer. They carry all the rest of your inventory slots, and they’re the one who keeps your actual hit points, AC, and so forth. When you run out of hit points, your sorcerer is dead, and you can’t contribute anything of significance to combat until you find another one (usually takes a week). Your sorcerer is a magical ranged weapon that deals damage of the element of your choice. They generally do what you tell them to; but in the absence of your advice they will usually default to the most recklessly bombastic action available.

Scholar and a Gentlebird: You are well-traveled, well-spoken, and well-educated. If there exists a skill that would be sufficient for you to know a piece of lore automatically, you know that lore. If not, you’re 30% likely to know it anyway. This is no use for information that’s not lore; you have absolutely no idea what the price of tulips is or how to fix a leaking boat. You get +2 to reaction rolls from wealthy, noble, or classy individuals.

Utility Magic: Your sorcerer has gotten the hang of something other than blowing people up. At each of templates B, C, and D, roll on the following table.

  1. Shatter: Your sorcerer can ruin objects that are smaller than they are and weaker than steel. Roll this again, and they can ruin objects that are smaller than they are or weaker than steel.
  2. Sorcerous Sight: Your sorcerer can see magic, and by focusing on it can get a rough idea of how strong (cantrip, standard, legendary, overwhelming) it is. Roll this again, and they can also explain what they see well enough for you to approximately identify the spell.
  3. Arcane Reach: Your sorcerer can push things around with their magic, up to 30 feet away, as if they were there. Roll this again, and they can push and lift twice as much as they could with their muscles.
  4. Elemental Resilience: You and your sorcerer can (choose one) withstand temperatures up to 140F; or down to -20F; or can breathe underwater; or can see in the dark. Choose another if you roll this again.
  5. Sorcerous Shields: Your AC is as good as chainmail, even without armor. If you roll this again it’s as good as plate.
  6. Liar’s Face: Your sorcerer can change their appearance and yours to any generic humanoid and bird, respectively. If you roll this again, they can also do the reverse.
  7. Flash and Shock: The first time your sorcerer attacks in combat, each enemy must make a morale check. If you roll this again, the morale check is at -2.
  8. Resize: Your sorcerer can adjust their size between half and twice their normal height (one eighth and eight times their normal weight). If you roll this again, the height limits increase to four and weight limits to 64.

Resonant Ward: Hostile magical effects targeting you and not your sorcerer are 50% likely to fail.

Evocation and Invocation: You can attack any number of enemies with your sorcerer at once, so long as no two of them are more than 20’ apart. Once you use this ability, you can’t use it again until you rest or eat lunch.

Teamwork & Tactics

Lonely Adventurer came up with what I thought was an ingenious idea, a better method of adjudicating “aid another”-type actions to make combat tactics more interesting. I helped him refine it a bit, and then got inspired to spin my take on it up into a full lightweight system, below.

Ability Scores and Checks

Each character has the expected six ability scores rated from 3 to 18. Ability checks are made by rolling a d20, adding your ability score, and trying to exceed (not equal) 10 plus the opposing ability score, or 20 unopposed. Ability bonuses, used to modify hit points and damage, are 1 per 3 points above 9.

Actions and Combat

Each side in a combat acts together, alternating turns. Any side that has the advantage of surprise takes the first turn; then initiative is rolled with a d20 per side; each character from the side that lost initiative whose Dexterity is better than the best Dexterity on the winning side plus the margin of lost initiative acts; each character on the winning side acts; and then initiative alternates from there out. Any character that hasn’t taken an action yet is Vulnerable.

Each character has three actions available: setup, shield, or strike. Setups are resolved first; choose a striking character and targeted enemy, and make an opposed ability check against that enemy, with the abilities used depending on the details of the specific action; for example, tangling a foe with a rope might be an opposed Dexterity check. A successful check gives the striker +1 to hit and +1d6 damage against that target this turn. Next, all strikes are resolved; an opposed ability check is made to hit (often Strength vs Dexterity), and on a success the striker deals their weapon damage to the target; however, a character who strikes becomes Vulnerable until their next turn. Strikes must target a Vulnerable enemy if one exists; by throwing yourself into the fray, you invite retaliation. Finally, if a character chooses to shield a striker, they can interfere with any retaliation, giving +1 to defense, and transferring 1d6 damage from any incoming attack to themself (applying armor).

A character reduced to 0 hit points is incapacitated; they must make an unopposed Constitution check each turn until provided first aid, or die.

The number of characters that can attack a single target, and the number that can attack at all, are limited by space and size. In a corridor, a total of three human-sized characters can attack, split across targets as they choose. In an open space with a front of battle, three human-sized attackers can attack each human-sized Vulnerable target. In an open space where attackers can surround their target, six can all attack one target.

If one side fires ranged weapons as the other closes to melee, the side with ranged weapons can make one free attack per 60 feet of distance, up to a maximum of four, or half as many with heavy weapons; thrown light weapons always only allow one attack on the approach.

Classes

Warrior

Basic Statistics: 1d10 plus Constitution bonus hit points per level, all weapons, armor, and shields

Cleave: When you strike, make an attack against every Vulnerable enemy you can reach; usually no more than three, unless polearms are involved.

Bend Bars, Lift Gates: With a brief surge of adrenaline, you can perform impossible physical feats. A successful unopposed Strength check allows you to bend steel bars, raise portcullises by hand, and shatter thin stone.

Hold the Line: When you shield an ally, you can choose to redirect 1d10 damage instead of 1d6.

Thief

Basic Statistics: 1d6 plus Constitution bonus hit points per level, light armor, light or medium weapons, no shields

Backstab: When you strike, add +1 additional damage for each ally who successfully set you up.

Tradecraft: You are 10% likely per level to notice immediately before taking an action that would trigger a trap. When you break into a locked room, you are 10% likely per level to do so quietly enough to preserve the element of surprise. When you pilfer an item from plain sight, it is 10% likely per level to go unnoticed.

Parkour: When you perform acrobatic stunts—climbing walls, leaping onto chandeliers, and so forth—you can take a setup action to benefit your own next round’s attack, regardless of target, by making an unopposed ability check.

Sorcerer

Basic Statistics: 1d4 plus Constitution bonus hit points per level, no armor, no shields, simple light weapons only

Cheap Tricks: When you setup an ally with magic spells or with conjurer’s tools like flash powder, give them an additional +1 to hit.

Arcane Blast: You can use magic as a weapon, using your Intelligence to attack and dealing 1d6 damage adjusted by your Intelligence bonus.

Ritual Casting: By taking 10 minutes to perform a ritual, you can solve general problems with magic. Rituals can translate ancient texts, destroy sealed doors, dispel magical traps, move heavy objects, and the like.

Priest

Basic Statistics: 1d8 plus Constitution bonus hit points per level, all armor and shields, simple weapons only

Divine Protection: You can shield any number of striking allies with a single action.

Lay On Hands: Once per day per level, you can heal an ally for 1d8 hit points plus your Wisdom bonus.

Turn Undead: You can strike the undead with holy power instead of a weapon; attack with your Wisdom against their Charisma. If you hit, instead of dealing damage, they flee in terror. If your level + the number of times your attack was set up equals or exceeds their hit points, instead they’re burned to ash and dust.

Equipment

Armor protects a character from incoming damage; light armor stops 1 point of damage, heavy 2 points, and a shield 1 additional point.

Weapons deal damage based on their type and quality. Light weapons deal 1d4 damage if simple, 1d6 if advanced, and can be both used in melee or thrown for use at range. Medium weapons deal 1d6 if simple, 1d8 if advanced; they are either melee or ranged only, and ranged medium weapons require both hands. Heavy weapons deal 1d8 if simple, 1d10 if advanced; they always require both hands, and ranged heavy weapons cannot be used to strike two turns in a row.

Level Advancement

Uncover a Great Treasure and survive, and you gain your second level, roll another hit die, and distribute four points among your ability scores. Two more Great Treasures, and you become third level, with the same effects. If a third level character finds a further three Great Treasures, they can retire as a Living Legend.

Exalted for the GLOG

I have, in my folly, attempted to merge two quite different spheres. On the one hand is Exalted—perhaps the epitome of flashy, high-powered RPGs, where reincarnated heroes use celestial power to bend reality, jump mountains, and punch out minor deities. On the other hand is The GLOG—a gritty, old-school D&D-like that caps level advancement at four hit dice, and has a great variety of mostly compatible content expandable by anyone. Naturally, the latter seemed the perfect engine to run the former. After all, it is said the GLOG contains or can contain a class for everything… why not the Solar Exalted?

I am, I think, particularly well qualified to handle this conversion, having never played or run either game. The results, of unclear quality, can be found below.