Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Atlantean RPG Classes, Part I...Also Alchemy

I would say that I'm still working on those swell numbers, but I kind of haven't for a while.  Took an almost-last-minute trip to visit family at the beach, played a fair amount of games (the board game Red Dragon Inn and video games Papers Please and Keep Talking and No One Explodes), and after returning home, got some gamer ADD and decided I needed to build a Saturn V rocket using the GURPS Vehicles rules.  But I will get back to it soon; every time I get online and see this neglected tab in my browser, I feel a little pang of guilt over it.

But until I have something swell related to post, I'll talk a little more about the Atlantean RPG.   Classes in this game are considered either single class or dual class (combining aspects of two single classes and/or two differing styles of magic).  I think it'll be easier to describe the single classes first, as dual classes can be most easily described in terms of the single classes they're comprised of.  Similarly, spellcasting classes will be more easily described after a survey of how magic works.  With this in mind, today I present the single class, non-spellcasting classes of the Arcanum.

The Beastmaster, obviously inspired by the 1982 Marc Singer movie, are wilderness oriented, with good fighting skills, survival, and tracking at first level.  They also can understand two (out of eight) animal languages, picking up more as they level up.  At higher levels, they learn to brew up herbal remedies, giving them some pretty good healing powers.  The central defining ability of the Beastmaster is the ability to Influence Animals.  This works kind of like clerical turning in D&D, but the Beastmaster can (with increasing levels of difficulty, and also modified by the level of the animals in question) call animals native to the surrounding area, turn animals (causing them to leave the immediate area), befriend animals (thus acquiring their help for the next 24 hours), and master animals (making them a more-or-less permanent follower).  First level Beastmasters can attempt to Influence animals of up to fifth level (but forget befriending or mastering them...the penalties are too great).  I don't know if the movie's copyrights deter other game systems from making similar types of characters (although Tarzan and Mowgli of the Jungle Book are also similar), or if other game systems just prefer to roll these types of powers into the more standard druid class, but this was an interesting take, and one I wouldn't mind seeing more of in fantasy games.

The Gladiator is a pretty standard fighter type, specializing in one-on-one melee fighting.  They learn Boxing and Wrestling skills at first level, making them pretty useful in the typical fantasy game tavern brawl, and are able to pick up other combat skills (and missile weapon proficiencies) as they level up.  The game's weapon list includes the cestus and throwing net, along with other more common gladiatorial weapons (tridents, swords, etc), so there is a lot of flavor there for those interested in playing Spartacus.

The Harlequin is a performer, sort of a non-magical bard in practice.  They are not front-line combatants, but are not useless in a fight either, much like D&D style thieves.  Where they really shine is their wide range of skills.  Their Oratory skill allows them to manipulate large groups, their Acting allows them to impersonate others, Acrobatics allows wall climbing, reduced damage from falls, and increased leaping distance.  Legerdemain allows sleight-of-hand style "magic", and Juggling allows them to catch thrown objects (including weapons).  At higher levels, improved Acrobatics allows pole vaulting and tightroping, and Knife-throwing allows called shots, with a chance of incapacitating opponents.  To be honest, when I first saw this class back in high school, I couldn't see why anyone would want to play them, but while they may not be badass fighters or wield mighty magical power, they are pretty good charisma type characters, good for courtly political campaigns or getting by on their wits and some luck.  I'd be happy to give it a shot these days.

Hunters get the full gamut of wilderness skills, as well as Riding and Archery skills.  At higher levels, they learn to brew up Herbal Remedies.  If you want a character that's any more like an AD&D Ranger, you'll have to spend some experience points to learn some magic as you level up.  If you want a ranged weapon fighter with tracking and survival, this class is great as-is.

The Martial Artist is another specialist fighter type.  They start out with Acrobatics (the lower level form that Harlequins have), Stealth, and Martial Arts, which gives improved hand to hand damage, increased number of unarmed attacks, and the ability to throw opponents or dodge attacks.  As they level up, their Martial Arts improve, allowing them to inflict debilitating blows, dodge missile weapons, attack with a jump kick, and smash wooden planks (that last might not sound too impressive, but doors are made of planks, so...).  They also get the ability to dual-wield things like sais or nunchaku, allowing them to double their attacks when using them (up to six attacks per round at the highest levels).   High school was a long time ago, and I don't remember many details about the characters my friends played, but one guy played a Martial Artist, and he was pretty effective (and memorable) in a fight.

Rogues are pretty much like Thieves from whatever version of D&D.  Lockpicking, Stealth, Climbing, Hiding, Picking Pockets...the main differences are that Rogues start with the ability to Con others, and in addition to Back Stab, they can Waylay victims, knocking them unconscious but leaving them alive.  As Rogues level up, they have a pretty free hand as to the skills they add, so they can pick up Acrobatics and become cat burglars, for example, or pick up Forgery and become counterfeiters. 

The Scholar is a pretty interesting class.  They generally appear in other games as NPC sages.  In the Arcanum, they start out with six Arts and Sciences type skills, a category which includes Diplomacy, Drafting (allowing the chance to discover potential secret doors and passages if a map of an area is available), Chirography (allowing accurate copying of maps and magic scrolls), Ancient Lore, and even Read Magic and Analyze Mixtures (allowing identification of potions, powders, oils, and other such things).  As the Scholar levels up, he is not limited to these types of skills, and can choose any skill in the game, including Alchemical skills, Thief skills and Combat skills; don't expect to make this character into a combat monster, though.  The Scholar can also trade in two new skills for the first level of spells in up to two different magic styles.  This can be a very flexible, useful class, but won't overshadow more focused classes in their area of specialization.

The Spy is an alternate Thief class, without Back Stabbing, but with both Waylaying (as Rogues above) and Assassination, which works pretty much the same as the AD&D Assassin's ability.  Most of the skills are what you would expect for a Thief, but in addition, Spies get some information gathering skills: Lip Reading, Deciphering, and Interrogating. 

The Warrior is a pretty vanilla fighter class.  They have the heaviest armor options of any fighter type we've looked at so far, and have no restrictions on their weapons.  The only restriction they get is unarmed combat styles...those are for Martial Artists and Gladiators starting out.  Warriors can pick them up later, if they want.  The only other thing setting Warriors apart from other fighting classes is that they pick up their extra attacks per round earlier. 

This leaves the Alchemist as the last non-spellcasting single class.  Alchemists are unskilled combatants, and are not spellcasters, but make up for it with their wide range of skills.  Touching on these alchemical skills will be useful for illustrating the range of the Alchemist's skills, and also later when discussing the spellcasters.  So, starting out, the Alchemist gets several skills related to finding and growing herbs, Healing Arts (a non-magical healing skill), Read Magic, Analyze Mixtures, and Herbal Remedies.  Herbal Remedies are pretty simple healing brews, taking a little water, various herbs depending on the effect desired (and this is one of the strengths of the alchemical system in this game, I think...keeping a good supply of a range of ingredients in order to make whatever concoction you need), a small pot to boil it in, and about an hour of prep time.  As long as the ingredients are available, the 15 minute adventuring day does not apply; you just need to take an hour break for each 15 minutes of adventuring...haha.  These remedies will keep for a day before losing their properties, so they are best prepared as needed, or at most brewed up the night before in anticipation of a particular hazard, such as burn remedies before venturing into some volcanic caves.  There are 20 different variations of Herbal Remedies, most removing some type of harmful status effect, such as blindness, paralysis, fever, pain, etc.  The Healing remedy heals 1-8 points, with specialized healing for burns or poisons providing 2-16 points.  Lastly, a Sedative is available that can double the effect of other healing concoctions at the price of needing to sleep for several hours after taking it; devious Alchemists can also use it for skulduggery if they can get a gullible mark to drink it.

The next skill the Alchemist gets as he levels up is Herbal Elixirs.  Elixirs are small time potions, with many of the same effects, but for a shorter duration (d6+4 minutes).  They require water, various herbs (again depending on effect), mortar and pestle, and a heat source, and take several hours to brew.

Alchemical Devices include poison needle rings, prisms that reveal illusions, cusps (like contact lenses) that provide night vision, lenses to find secret doors, and other similar minor magical devices.  They require a fairly decent supply of metal- and glass-working tools and a lab, and take about a week to build.

Magical Mixtures include oils that provide protection against summoned creatures, inks for scroll creation, powders used to conjure animals, and several types of incenses for divination or dealing with spirits.  They require mortar and pestle, cauldron or crucible, a heat source, and various herbs, chemicals, or other ingredients.  They take a day to prepare.

Toxic Powders can be slipped into food or drinks, or can be thrown or otherwise dispersed onto enemies in combat.  There are 17 types, with effects ranging from amnesia, vertigo or itching to coma or death.  Toxic Powders take a day to prepare, and require mortar and pestle, heat source, various herbs, and a vessel of some sort to heat them in.

Philtres are potion-like substances that induce an emotion in the drinker. The Love Philtre is the most immediately recognizable of the bunch, but there are others that induce apathy, recklessness, sorrow, and treachery, among others.  They take 5-8 hours to make, and last for 5-20 minutes.  Philtres are made with a wine base (making it fairly easy to trick others into drinking them), and also require mortar and pestle, heat source, and various herbs.

Venoms and Poisons take a day to make and require the usual tools.  Ingredients can get tricky to find, since venomous animals are a little more dangerous than your average plant.  As I mentioned in the first post on the Atlantean RPG, there are very few save-or-die situations in this game.  Three of them fall under this skill: curare and wyvern's tail venoms and black death poison.  Most of the other substances here reduce Constitution or cause direct damage over a period of time, but even that can swing the outcome of a combat drastically; the weakest does 2-8 damage per minute for 10 minutes...nothing to sneeze at.  As an aside, one of the characters I played in high school was an Alchemist, and by the time I learned to make Venoms and Poisons, I was well on my way to becoming the richest one in the party.  We had a lot of guys who threatened (and occasionally followed through) on PvP conflict, and I was often hired out to make some nasty toxin by one PC, and then hired out to make a series of anti-toxins by several other PCs immediately after.

Potions mostly follow the types you'd find in other versions of D&D.  They take a week a brew up, and required a pretty costly list of ingredients: powdered gold, silver, copper, and gemstones, as well as other rare ingredients based on the effect.  Whereas lesser alchemical concoctions mostly require herbs for their effect, potions call for things like minotaur horn, vampire blood, or lion heart.  Their duration lasts 41-60 minutes.

Alchemical Dusts, like Toxic Powders, can be thrown or otherwise dispersed onto a group of enemies in combat.  Their effects range from blindness to charming to paralysis to poison.  Several types also exist that should be familiar to D&D players: disappearance, sleep, and itching.  Alchemical Dusts take two weeks to prepare, although help from a Wizard, Sorcerer, or Magician can cut this down to a week.  Their effects last for an hour.  Ingredients are pretty pricey here too...in addition to requiring a base made up of platinum, gold, and silver, they also generally require the ingredients of a potion as well.  For example, Dust of Disappearance requires the ingredients of Potion of Invisibility.

At this point, the Alchemist is hitting the big leagues.  All previous processes could be carried out in a decent apothecary's lab, if not by a campfire, but to do more impressive works, you need an Aludel (a type of vase) and an Athanor (a type of furnace).  Advanced Alchemical Equipment skill lets you make them, assuming you can take the down time required to gather ingredients, construct, and properly prepare the devices, at least two months for the Athanor.

Once you have your alchemy lab fully stocked with professional level equipment, the next step is making Advanced Alchemical Substances.  These are Alchahest (the universal solvent, left with some flaw in the formula so that it can actually be contained in something), Orichalc (a refined magical metal that can be used to make weapons and armor of up to +3 bonus), and Vitriol (the sovereign glue, dissolvable only by Alchahest).  Each of these substances takes two weeks to produce.

Essences are the next step in the Alchemist's progression.  To produce an Essence, the Alchemist must have a quantity of the metal or other substance he wishes to refine, some Alchahest, and a fully stocked (Aludel and Athanor) laboratory.  There are 11 Essences to choose from, including Variable Mercury (the Philosopher's Stone, used to turn lead into gold), Waters of Sulfur (which can restore the dead to life), and True Platinum (which can be used to create items that function similarly to a Ring of Spell Storing).  A particularly interesting Essence is Essential Earths, which can be made into an Elixir of Elemental Power.  This elixir can be used by the Alchemist to gain powers related to one of the four elements, such as the ability to breathe water, walk on water, and speak with water elementals, or immunity to fire, the ability to set flammable items alight by touch, and the ability to speak with fire elementals.

At the highest levels, Alchemists gain the ability to make Golems (fairly self-explanatory), Machina (constructs like the Iron Cobra...several others are listed as well), and Homonculi (which can be of any size and shape the creator wishes, as long as he has the materials for it). 

So, a pretty impressive list of magic for a non-spellcaster.  When I started composing this post, I really didn't intend to get this detailed about alchemy, but I think to do less would do the Alchemist class a disservice.  Additionally, it will be easier to describe the spellcasting classes now that alchemy is out of the way...I can just refer to the alchemical skill now, without having to delve into any further detail.

Next time I post, hopefully I will have worked out something useful related to swells, but if not, I will go over non-spellcasting dual-class classes of the Arcanum.

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