Xinef's Pathfinder Overhaul

Share and review houserules for Ponyfinder.
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Xinef's Pathfinder Overhaul

Postby Xinef » Sat Feb 25, 2017 12:04 pm

So... I have so many houserules, that I'll just put all of them in one place for convenience. Some of them are not related specifically to Ponyfinder, but some may interact with Ponyfinder rules in interesting ways, so I'll try to note such cases. Other than that, I'm hoping for some insight from the more experienced GMs if you see any obvious (or not so obvious) problems with this.

For the record, it's only partially playtested.

  1. HP - I decided to buff non-magical healing, because it tends to either be completely ignored by players (if they optimize their characters), or overshadowed by magic healing (if a players tries to develop his mundane healing skills). On the other hand, magical healing needed a nerf, or else players can just use a CLW wand to top up their health between battles. Thus:
    • Magical healing will mostly function as first-aid. It does not cure your wounds. It lets you continue fighting despite your wounds. It'll stop bleeding, immobilize broken bones, and act as a painkiller. In order to actually heal yourself between battles, you'll need a lot of rest and medical care. Magic can help with long-time care, but it does not replace it.
    • Mechanically, it works like this: keep track of three numbers - your max HP, your wounds, and your temporary (first-aid) HP.
      Your max HP rarely changes during adventures, usually only when something changes your constitution, or when you get negative levels, as usual.
      When something damages you, add the damage to the wounds counter.
      If your wounds exceed your (max HP + temporary HP) you are uncounscious or dead, just like normally when your HP drops below zero.
      Healing magic does not remove wounds. Instead, it grants you temporary HP. It cannot, however, grant you more than either your current wounds, nor your max HP.

      Example: you have 30 max HP, 15 wounds, 5 temporary HP.
      Magical healing can give you at most 10 extra temporary hit points, bringing your total to 15 temporary hit points, since that's how many wounds you have. Your temporary HP cannot exceed 15 until you get a few more wounds.

      Example 2: you have 30 max HP, 40 wounds, 20 temporary HP.
      You are still conscious and fully capable of fighting, since (30+20)>40, however healing magic can grant you at most 10 more temporary HP, bringing the total to 30 temporary HP. This is because your temporary HP cannot exceed your max HP.

      Therefore, healing magic can roughly double your HP pool (although not before the first battle), but after taking so many wounds you can't rely on first aid any longer. When your max HP is 30 and you have 60 or so wounds, basically all your bones are broken, your entire skin is a huge bruise, covered in scars and cuts that aren't bleeding only because magic is barely holding your flesh together. If not for magic, you'd be twice dead. So... go to that hospital bed, and take a few weeks of rest, would you?

      Rest and non-magical healing on the other hoof reduce your number of wounds. For now, my formula is:
      base - 1 wound per week of normal activity
      x2 if resting
      +1 for each 5 by which a healer exceeds DC5 on a heal check. So DC10 = +1, DC15 = +2, DC20 = +3 and so on. If multiple healers, either take the best result, or they can aid another.
      +1 for each spell level if someone tries to use magic to speed up the healing. Thus a level 1-2 cleric/druid can speed up healing by 1 wound per week (by spending 1 CLW spell each day), while a level 9-10 cleric/druid can speed up healing by 5 wounds a week by spending a level 5 spell slot each day.

      So, your typical level 10 party should be able to heal let's say:
      1 base + 5 mundane (heal skill +20, take 10, DC 30) + 5 magical = 11, multiply by 2 = 22 wounds per week of resting.
      Or 11 wounds if they keep adventuring, fighting etc.

  2. Armor - I use the alternate rules for damage reduction. Nothing fancy.

  3. Magic - First of all, I'm not a bit fan of the quadratic wizard. I'd say if a fighter puts as much effort into training, he should get roughly the same amount of power as a wizard would from putting that much effort into learning magic. I mostly blame the fact that wizards are both powerful AND versatile at the same time. I'd say they should choose either or. I also love the idea of specialized spellcasters. A pyromancer who uses only fire magic, or a necromancer who uses only necromancy, or an illusionist who only uses illusions. Sure, specialized wizards will face tough situations (pyromancer vs fire immune enemies?) but with a bit of creativity these can be overcome (pyromancer casts fire immunity on his allies, then proceeds to summon fire elementals and gives them magic weapons, so that his army of fire elementals beats down on the fire immune enemies).
    Also, I'm not a big fan of spell slots. While choosing spells for the day is an interesting puzzle, it does slow down the game, and does not fit with my own vision of magic.
    • Therefore I use spell points, similar to the suggested variant rules. Except each spell costs equal to it's level, so a 9th level spell costs 9 spell points. How many points a spellcaster gets is adjusted accordingly.
    • As for the specialization - every time a spellcaster levels up, they have to make a decision. Pursue a specific school of magic (necromancy, illusions, evocation, divination, etc.), a specific element/domain (fire, earth, light, darkness, nature, mind, etc.), or they can choose generalism.
      If they choose specialization, they progress normally, as per the books, except when determining which spells they qualify for. They only gain progress towards spells that meet their specialization. BUT I assume that wherever it makes sense, they can cast spells using their own specialization as opposed to the one suggested by the spell. So a geomancer can take the fireball, and cast it as an acid ball instead. A pyromancer can cast stone skin, except it will be fire skin instead. Generally, feel free to be creative with the domain or school of magic that you can control.
      Those who choose generalism on the other hand gain progress in all schools and domains, but at half the pace. If you are a pure generalist, you get access to 2nd level spells at caster level 5, and to 5th level spells at caster level 17. Do note, that generalists get spell points at normal progression, so they will be able to cast A LOT of those low level spells, before running dry. (And if we use spell slot rules, they would get higher level spell slots, to use metamagic with)

      It is possible (and maybe reasonable) to take a few levels as a specialist and a few as a generalist. So a 5th level generalist 5th level pyromancer (a 10th level wizard) can cast all level 1 and 2 spells, and also 3rd and 4th level fire spells.

      Technically, it would also be possible to pursue two or more specializations, but it will always be suboptimal compared to just taking generalism levels instead.
    • The same applies to divine casters, and basically all full spellcasting classes. I'm not sure yet whether it should apply to paladins, rangers, bards etc. I don't feel like they need a nerf, so probably it shouldn't.
    • I am considering redoing magic even more. I like the way magic is done in Roleplaying is Magic 3rd edition, so I was thinking of placing that system in the Pathfinder context, and seeing how it will work. But, it'll need some more work before being production ready ;)
    • Also, all these changes to magic will necessitate changes to magic items as well. Especially the RiM magic system - since it seriously messes up Pathfinder spells.

  4. Languages - I always thought the language rules in D&D and Pathfinder were bogus. Sure, I understand that it's nice if all player characters can talk to each other, and if they can talk to most NPCs, so I see why the Common language was invented. BUT it's too widespread in my opinion. And completely eliminates most of the interesting problems. Thus, I nerfed Common a bit, while still retaining it's presence.
    • Common is like Esperanto - not a native language for anyone, but merchants, priests, scholars and other educated people will generally know it in order to communicate with foreigners. Common folk may know a few basic words too. This is a simple language, with maybe a few hundred words and gestures. Enough to say "I buy sword, pay gold" or "You attack big guy". But not a good language for diplomacy, bluff and other social skills. Any attempts at social skills made in Common take a -10 penalty.

      Also, there is no written version of Common. You can write in common using Elven alphabet, or Dwarven runes, etc. but then you need to know how to read those languages in order to read the text.
    • All other languages have 3 levels of proficiency:
      - basic - you sound like a non-native speaker, and people will easily notice you are a foreigner. -5 on social skills
      - average - you sound like a native, +0 on social skills
      - expert - you sound like an eloquent speaker, knowing poetry, rhetorics etc. - +5 on social skills in that language
    • If a language has a written form, an alphabet or somesuch, it is considered a separate thing, you need to learn separately. It also has three levels of proficiency. Basic, average and expert. If you try to use social skills through writing, or try to do anything else that involves writing, take the same penalties or bonuses based on your skill with that language.
    • Everyone is assumed to start with average proficiency in their native language. If they are educated (wizards, priests, bards, etc.) they also get average proficiency in writing in their native language.
    • Bonus languages granted by a class (druidic, draconic etc.) are given at basic level, but both spoken and written.
    • As for learning new languages, or improving ones you already know, it's one point of linguistics to get a basic level of either writing or speaking a new language, or one point of linguistics to improve one of those you already know to the next level. So learning languages IS harder than in base game. You can't just spend 6 skill ranks at level up to master 6 new languages. You can though spend 6 ranks to learn the basics of speaking in 6 languages ;) Do note that this applies to each point of linguistics bonus you gain, not just ranks. So if you increase your intelligence, or wear an item that grants a bonus to linguistics, it will also grant you bonus points to improve your languages. For balance reasons, these points should be fixed per magic item, so you can't just take it off, wear it again, and choose different ones.

      Diplomats (and liars, and intimidators) should heavily consider investing in linguistics, and in spells and magic items that grant them a linguistics bonus.

Ok, so how does that relate to Ponyfinder?

Well, magic for one. I'll have to look over all the ponyfinder spells and see how they fit with my changes.
Languages too. I'll have to see how things work on that front. This should also depend on settings, since rather than racial languages, I'm more inclined towards regional languages. Or both. If there are many languages involved in a campaign, players may have to look for translator NPCs. Or we might have to add a universal translator magic item (which should probably add some penalties too, if it's used, so that it's still useful to learn the languages involved. Or maybe change things to 2 points per linguistics point. I'll have to playtest it more heavily. Maybe just giving all players a +5 to linguistics points at character creation, or a +1/level could also be necessary.

I don't think that health, armor, or spell point rules will interact with Ponyfinder in any specific ways, though.

So... any thoughts? I'm posting it here for two reasons.
1. DIscussion.
2. Reference, so if I find any players, I can point them here.

Also, as I playtest it more, I'll keep anyone interested updated on my findings.

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Re: Xinef's Pathfinder Overhaul

Postby Xinef » Sat Feb 25, 2017 12:49 pm

Also, there's a bunch of problems in Pathfinder that I'm planning to solve with house rules, but I've not yet decided how to do it. If I encounter a player for whom solving those issues will be useful or necessary, I'll try some solutions and then see how it works in practice.

For now, I'll just list the problems:
  • Many feats are underpowered. Spending a feat to get simple weapon proficiency? Who would do that? If I ever find that my build needs extra proficiencies, I almost always consider just multiclassing one level of fighter or paladin. Even if it's a spellcasting build that suffers from the -1 caster level progression. Overall, I'd be inclined to just merge all armor proficiencies and shield proficiency into a single feat. Then merge all weapon proficiencies excluding exotic into a single feat. Make exotic weapon proficiency a "you become proficient in all exotic weapons". I consider doing something similar to weapon focus (maybe split into groups. One-handed weapon focus. Two-handed weapon focus. Ranged+thrown+ray weapon focus. Unarmed+natural weapon focus). I might consider doing some similar merges for spell focus too. It's not as underwhelming as the weapon variety, because spells are more varied, but still, spending a feat for +1 DC to some of your spells is somewhat weak. Similarly feats that grant bonus skill points are rarely considered by players, because they are somewhat weak.
  • Many feats are boring. Feats that only grant you a passive +x bonus to something do not make your character any more interesting. They don't give you any more options. It's boring. I much prefer playing around with feats such as item creation, whirlwind attack, spring attack, cleave etc. that actually make things more interesting.
  • I often find that melee and ranged characters have few interesting things to do at low levels. Fighters and classes that get some bonus combat maneuvers may attempt those occasionally, but usually you have to wait until later levels before combat maneuvers become a staple. Except then, enemies are often immune, and anyway who would specialize in e.g. disarm, when there are so many creatures with natural attacks? Who would take sunder, when it's better to just steal the item from the cold corpse of the enemy? How do you trip a beholder? So... specializing in combat maneuvers can be crippling to a character. Thus, I'd like to encourage characters to do combat maneuvers even if they don't have feats for them.
  • One thing I considered is giving one feat per level, instead of every second level. BUT require that feats at odd levels are active feats (those that enable you to do something new), while feats at even levels would have to be passive (+x bonus to something).

    I guess too many active feats can be overwhelming to some players, and even passive feats can be hard to keep track of, if they give some non-standard bonus (i.e. one that's easy to forget)...

    I've also seen some homebrew systems where combat maneuvers and proficiencies are learned using skill ranks, rather than feats. I'll have to look into that.

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