Please don't balance DF with core D&D classes!

Dragon Fist, Chris Pramas' fantasy RPG of high-flyin' martial arts action, is finally going to see print at the hands of Green Ronin. This forum is closed while the game is being re-developed.

Please don't balance DF with core D&D classes!

Postby Zapp » Thu Mar 06, 2003 5:34 am

Please don't fall for the temptation of 'balancing' DF with the core PHB classes!

Characters created using OA feels much the same as any other Fighter, Wizard or Cleric; but perhaps with exotic weapons and slanted eyes. That's nowhere near characters created with the original DF!

Of course, standard D&D has the Monk. It has many of the necessary abilities, but only gets them after several levels, and the mechanisms of leaping and jumping around is bogged down by incredibly boring and complex rules. Heroes should be able to do stuff like that for free!

For all of D&Ds high fantasy and high magic, the wuxia genre simply demands even more outrageous abilities than western fantasy. And it would be a shame if I would need to create level-15 characters just to be able to do stuff DF-characters were able to right from the start!

So, please don't balance DF with the standard D&D classes. I can live with other changes, such as if you decide to replace Tianguo with another (similar) world, or replace DFs special stunt system for the standard D20 rules. Stuff like that is nowhere nearly as important than the *feel* of the world and its characters!

The one thing that separates DF from "the rest" was its ability to recreate fantasy china films long before Crouching Tiger. Don't throw away that!

Respectfully,
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Postby REG » Thu Mar 06, 2003 3:52 pm

Of course, I don't mind a sidebar that explains how to incorporate DF into D&D and other d20 fantasy games.

After all, I do so like mixing it up: East vs. West. :evil:

"Option, not Restriction."
Anyhoo, just some random thoughts...

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Postby Olive » Sun Mar 16, 2003 1:29 pm

REG wrote:Of course, I don't mind a sidebar that explains how to incorporate DF into D&D and other d20 fantasy games.

After all, I do so like mixing it up: East vs. West. :evil:

"Option, not Restriction."


i could live with this, but i'd rather see a sidebar expalianign what Zapp wants than a sidebar explainign what i want.
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Postby MacBin » Mon Mar 17, 2003 3:00 am

I'd like to see both options if possible.
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Re: Please don't balance DF with core D&D classes!

Postby Pagan priest » Mon Mar 17, 2003 11:08 am

Zapp wrote:Please don't fall for the temptation of 'balancing' DF with the core PHB classes!

Of course, standard D&D has the Monk. It has many of the necessary abilities, but only gets them after several levels, and the mechanisms of leaping and jumping around is bogged down by incredibly boring and complex rules. Heroes should be able to do stuff like that for free!

For all of D&Ds high fantasy and high magic, the wuxia genre simply demands even more outrageous abilities than western fantasy. And it would be a shame if I would need to create level-15 characters just to be able to do stuff DF-characters were able to right from the start!

Respectfully,
Zapp


This is the classic mistake when trying to compare a movie hero with a D&D hero. Guess what? That movie hero WAS 15th level. Nobody gets to do super, wild wuxia when starting out! They ALL had to learn how to walk, then run and only then could they start to learn how to run across the tops of blades of grass without bending the stalk.

Let's really think about this for a moment, shall we? What powers would a wuxia type get that would be SO different from a standard D&D character? The things that come imediately to my mind are mobility and martial arts (either unarmed or with exotic weapons). Your typical, every day, run-of-the-mill paladin or ranger starts to cast magic spells at 4th level. Now, if you think about this like a commoner, this is absolutely wonderous! As players, we may look at this and be underwhelmed by comparing it to the wizard, but it IS an ability that sets them far beyond the peasant... even more than the fighting ability that they also possess. After all (thinks the peasant) if I just had the time to practice with a sword, I could be just as good, but magic! Woo.

I have always held that even a 1st level character represents someone who has been trained in their chosen class, even if that training has only been rudimentary. Continuing this line of thought, a wuxia type character could (and should) be a little better than others at the movement and martial arts somewhere very close to 1st level. By 4th level the movement should start to look extrordinaryand either exotic weapons or open hand attacks are well developed. By 8th level, movement should look supernatural as the wuxia character uses barely visible toeholds to seemingly run srtaight up a wall. Once the character passes 12th level, the movement should really BE supernatural, as blades of grass or still waters become paved roads. Perhaps at this level, the character gains the spell-like ability to grant themself the power of flight for a limited duration each day.

And so on, and so on...

Where's the balance? Well, I can easily see a wuxia master standing toe to toe and trading blows with a greatsword armed tank (ie, fighter) of equal level, and the wuxia master is defeated. He played directly into the strength of the tank, while negating his own strengths. The W.M. should have used his superior mobility to strike at the tank and dance back out of range before the tank could strike back.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Regarding the jump skill, I can only hope that when the core books are revised in July, that WotC uses the jump skill write up from D20 Modern, it is far easier than the Player's Handbook version.
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Postby Tenzhi » Mon Mar 17, 2003 10:51 pm

There are a lot of abilities in the Epic Level Handbook that are part and parcel of standard wuxia films... If your standard hero has to start out at 15th-Epic levels to have a standard suite of abilities, then you should probably just make 15th level into 1st level. And all you need to balance that with a standard DnD game is to state that "all characters in this book receive a Level Adjustment of +15 in a standard game."
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Postby Timba » Tue Mar 25, 2003 10:38 am

A 15th level apprentice, hmmm interesting. :yar:
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Re: Please don't balance DF with core D&D classes!

Postby Zapp » Fri Mar 28, 2003 4:40 am

Pagan priest wrote:This is the classic mistake when trying to compare a movie hero with a D&D hero. Guess what? That movie hero WAS 15th level. Nobody gets to do super, wild wuxia when starting out! They ALL had to learn how to walk, then run and only then could they start to learn how to run across the tops of blades of grass without bending the stalk.


The thing is, I get the impression you never played the original Dragon Fist game - there you begin with "free" wuxia. It's true you start out at 3rd level, but that's nowhere near 15th level.

The crucial point in my post is: keep Dragon Fist as the game where you *start out* as a fledgling wuxia master, not as any measly 1st level D&D warrior.

If I want to begin as an ordinary citizen with no high-flying wuxia abilities, then I'd play an ordinary D&D Monk or such. We don't need another set of rules for that!

If I want to play in a truly chinese fantasy setting, of course I want to have the staple abilities from the start. That's when I'd play the orginal Dragon Fist instead of D&D, and that's why I hope the new DF keeps its imbalances...

And that is my point: Chris Pramas, please keep Dragon Fist the uniquely atmospheric wuxia rpg. Don't turn it into som collection of standard fantasy classes, where you'd be required to level up fifteen times before you'd get the wuxia feeling. We already have Oriental Adventures for that! We love the orginal DF for letting us do super wild wuxia when our characters start out - that's the whole point of using DF instead of standard D&D!

You see my point, "Pagan Priest"? If you want a western knight to be equal to a eastern "movie hero", you don't need DF.

Let's instead encourage Green Ronin to keep Dragon Fist unique - there's already more than enough D20 material for making "balanced" eastern heroes. Don't force DF players to have to play high-level adventures only, just because they want to leap across canyons as "everybody" can do in many wuxia movies...

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Postby Timba » Sat Mar 29, 2003 12:58 am

You forget, the medieval knight is not equal to the fantasy knight. A medieval knight or an European medieval martial artist are as equal to the asian martial artist as a fantasy knight equal to a wuxia fighter. And don't forget two things:

1. Every master began as an apprentice.
2. More munchkin doesn't mean more uniqness. I have seen lots of wuxia movie where the hero began as a very very clumsy apprentice. they wanted to study martial arts because they was beaten or they couldn't defend their family and wanted to revenge their death.
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Postby Pagan priest » Sat Mar 29, 2003 11:47 am

Timba, I like what you said, or at lest most of it. I would not call the desire to jump straight in to the wuxia action "munchkin"... I can see where the other posters are coming from on this, I just don't agree with them.

Nobody starts out being able to fly.(*) It takes training. While I haven't seen all that many wuxia films, I have seen enough to see that it takes a special kind of person to dedicate their lives to learning the technics. That training and practice takes time, time that can be represented by gaining levels from first on up. Peasants never learn this, merchants only look on in awe. Even most guards or warriors are helpless before the skills of a wuxia master. (* Okay, there is an exeption... a magical or spirit being may be able to fly from birth.)

Most of the movies that I have seen have a student and a master around somewhere. The student may be very good against the mooks, very impressive when viewed in action. Then the main villain shows up and the master must leap into action, usualy giving leasons to the student while doing so. The origional DF assumed that everyone was starting out at a point past the beginning training, but before full mastery, starting out at about 3rd level if you convert to D&D terms.

Mostly, I see this as coming down to intentions. I am looking for a good D&D suppliment to portray wuxia... not a suppliment to Oriental Adventures, but a replacement for OA. If I want to have a samurai adventure, I would use OA and Rokugan, they are great for that genre. Unfortunately, OA does not work well for "Crouching Tiger" type adventuring.

The Dragon Magazine issue on OA mentioned allowing everyone in a wuxia campaign to fly starting at about 10th level, and allowing a feat to improve the flight capability. I see that as a fair starting point. Perhaps a character devoted to such things should start a little earlier, one who focuses in a radically different area would start later.
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Postby Timba » Sat Mar 29, 2003 12:33 pm

Pagan priest

You are right. I used wrong exprression. Unfortunatly this expression came up reading the previous comment. Fortunatly you understand what I wanted to say. There can be a ballance between a western and an eastern hero only they method are different. (Not a really good example, but remember Xena.) I know the original Dragon Fist and as I see it can be ballanced to the D&D classes as weel as to Modern d20. This would be the best to the whole d20 community. Orinetal adventures doesn't really suit to the Modern D20. Dragin Fist would do this much better I guess.
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Postby Tenzhi » Sat Mar 29, 2003 3:27 pm

Pagan priest wrote:Most of the movies that I have seen have a student and a master around somewhere. The student may be very good against the mooks, very impressive when viewed in action.


The question, which has a very subjective answer, is "at what level is a normal DnD character no longer a mook?" My answer would be: DnD characters progress beyond mookdom at 10th level or so.

Mostly, I see this as coming down to intentions. I am looking for a good D&D suppliment to portray wuxia...


I'm looking for a good wuxia game using the familiar d20 system. Hoopefully, DF can cater to both our needs.
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Postby Pagan priest » Sun Mar 30, 2003 10:33 am

I tend to think of mook in the first edition sense of being 0 level characters. Yes, that is zero level. For those of you who do not have any experience with antique D&D, NPC's were often 0 level, and characters of almost any level could run rough shod over them at will.

Updating the term to 3E standards, I would still cut off "mookdom" at maybe 3rd level or so. At that point, the NPC is beginning to stand out from the hoards of peasants. More than just their equipment, their skill sets them apart from the commoner hoeing his field. 10th level is where a person has made a name, and can expect to be known and recognized.

In my home grown (western) campaign world, the Mage's Guild considers a mage to be an apprentice until such time as he is able to demonstrate the ability to cast a known third level spell. This holds for wizards or sorcerers. A master must create a suitable magic item (and therefore be at 12th to 15th level).

Since a 5th level wizard can fly, that seems to mark a good point where a wuxia campaing could allow a character to go mystical. I think this shows why just using OA or just the standard monk doesn't quite work. A standard monk gains Leap of the Clouds at 7th level. For a wuxia based game I could see this as a 1st level ability. Scale up from there and by 12th level or so, our little wuxia master can fly just about anywhere he wants to go.
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Postby Tenzhi » Sun Mar 30, 2003 11:53 am

Pagan priest wrote:Updating the term to 3E standards, I would still cut off "mookdom" at maybe 3rd level or so. At that point, the NPC is beginning to stand out from the hoards of peasants. More than just their equipment, their skill sets them apart from the commoner hoeing his field. 10th level is where a person has made a name, and can expect to be known and recognized.


The commoner hoeing the field is below mookdom. Mooks are the guys that are getting beat up by the apprentice on a regular basis. This includes soldiers and officers and roguish thugs and anyone else whose kung fu isn't up to the task ("kung fu" properly being defined as "degree of perfection" rather than "chinese martial arts"). A 5th level fighter can't even attack twice per round yet - his kung fu isn't good enough to not be considered a mook.
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Postby Zapp » Wed Apr 02, 2003 2:59 pm

Tenzhi wrote:The commoner hoeing the field is below mookdom. Mooks are the guys that are getting beat up by the apprentice on a regular basis. This includes soldiers and officers and roguish thugs and anyone else whose kung fu isn't up to the task ("kung fu" properly being defined as "degree of perfection" rather than "chinese martial arts"). A 5th level fighter can't even attack twice per round yet - his kung fu isn't good enough to not be considered a mook.


Ahem. The question I find most interesting to ask is:
"Will the game require characters to be of high level (around level 10) before they can do the cool stuff wuxia movies are made out of?"

In Oriental Adventures the answer is "yes".

In Dragon Fist, the answer was "no" - let's keep it that way.

Why have to deal with high-level play (loads of hit points, multitudes of magical effects etc) just to be able to play the game as it was intended? As I've said before, I wouldn't need a new DF for that: OA is that game already.

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Postby REG » Wed Apr 02, 2003 3:18 pm

Anyone who has seen the new OA, including a village idiot, would know this focus on chanbara genre (i.e., samurai).

What I would like to see is a blending of chanbara and wuxia.

Besides, the new OA disappointed me when it decided to use Japanese-flavored Rokugan as their default setting rather than sticking to tradition with the Asia-flavored Kara-Tur.
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Postby Pagan priest » Fri Apr 04, 2003 12:54 pm

But why blend chanbara and wuxia? It seems to me that OA, especially if combined with the Rokugan stuff from AEG has all the chanbara anyone could need. I am hoping for a suppliment that focuses heavily on wuxia.

About the only wuxia elements that I can see in OA, the Blade Dancer PrC is it. Weightless Foot from Dragon #289 is much better, and what I'll use until Dragon Fist is available.
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Postby REG » Sat Apr 05, 2003 1:58 am

Because I like blending, aka crossovers: Chanbara vs. Wuxia, Samurai vs. Nobles, etc.
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Re: Please don't balance DF with core D&D classes!

Postby tetsujin28 » Thu May 15, 2003 12:32 pm

Pagan priest wrote:This is the classic mistake when trying to compare a movie hero with a D&D hero. Guess what? That movie hero WAS 15th level. Nobody gets to do super, wild wuxia when starting out! They ALL had to learn how to walk, then run and only then could they start to learn how to run across the tops of blades of grass without bending the stalk.

I seem to recall there's a scene in Bride with White Hair II that runs something like:
"So, does everyone know Flying Stance?"
"Err..uh...I know Air Stance."
Everybody else: "*groan*" :)
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GMed Exalted over the Weekend ...

Postby Chairman Aeon » Wed May 21, 2003 8:05 am

Yes, yes, Exalted isn't D20 or wuxia, but it is influence by wuxia directly and in directly. Just read a bit ...

It was the forst time I've run it. You can read all you want, but until you play you really don't get a feel for the game. Beginning characters in Exalted are monsters. They have competent skills and a bunch of charms (think feats on radioactive steriods). They players had never played Exalted before and got their powers during the adventure. What we all learned was that a beginning Exalted character could be in their own movie. The characters truly became gods among men and able to battle whole armies by themselves.

I have an 8th level Living Force character. I love him dearly and have cheated death a couple of times. At 8th level in Star Wars D20 I am becoming a consistent character, but not a great one. My character if they were in a movie would have a small speaking part with the idea that in a few movies down the franchise line he might get better screen time.

I ran Mutants & Masterminds at PL6 and then again at PL7/8. Dogfaced supersoldiers against the Nazis in 1964. M&M defaults to PL10 because it is the point where a character could actually have their own comic rather than a three panel wonder. There are a lot of people thogh who like the idea of starting at the beginning and working their way up. Levelling up is so much a part of D&D and therefor D20 that starting at anything other than 1st level is thought of as "cheating". PL1 in M&M is really not playable.

So what does this have to do with Dragonfist? Some people want to make a character that immediately is able to run across water and bounce across rooftops. Others want a very gradual increase in power and a start at 1st level approach. Is there a way to balance these two very different groups?

Iain.
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Postby Lusiad » Mon Jun 02, 2003 8:21 pm

Mutants & Masterminds has the PCs start out at 10th level. Why not do the same with Dragon Fist?
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Postby REG » Tue Jun 03, 2003 2:23 pm

I have no problem with that. The original Dragon Fist let you start at 3rd level.
Anyhoo, just some random thoughts...

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DF characters

Postby Zapp » Tue Jun 17, 2003 10:05 am

Lusiad wrote:Mutants & Masterminds has the PCs start out at 10th level. Why not do the same with Dragon Fist?


As I don't have M&M, and obviously don't know the complexity level of the forthcoming Dragon Fist, I can't really say.

But I sure don't want to have to deal with the detail of an standard D&D (or OA) level 10th character right away - character generation alone would take hours (including choosing spells and magic items)!

(As I said earlier, starting out as a 1st level character doesn't help, if comparable in (lack of) power with a standard D&D character.)

By this reason alone, I'm fairly convinced this starting out at 10th level thing won't happen unless DF is a much simplified game compared to D&D.

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Postby REG » Tue Jun 17, 2003 1:02 pm

Trust me, dude. I have the original Chris Pramas' Dragon Fist downloaded, and starting characters begin play at level 3.

Level 10 may be farfetched, unless you want a high-powered Wuxia campaign, but Level 3 would be the suggested default.
Anyhoo, just some random thoughts...

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Postby Zapp » Wed Jun 18, 2003 3:47 am

REG wrote:Trust me, dude. I have the original Chris Pramas' Dragon Fist downloaded, and starting characters begin play at level 3.


I'm not entirely sure whom you are refering to as "dude" :) Nevertheless, to avoid confusion: I have it too, and I never questioned this fact.

I have no problem starting out at level 3. An original DF character (at level 3) could do stuff even a mid- to high-level 3rd edition D&D character would be hard pressed to do. And that's what I like!

I believe DF characters started out at level 3 to avoid them having hit points in the single digits (also, they were supposed to have passed initiation to their secret society, also suggesting that they would have passed beyond level 1).

Starting campaigns at around 3rd level is not uncommon - heck, I do it myself!

But just because its ok to start out at level 3 with a few more hp, it's not equally ok to start out at level 10, unless the game is much simplified compared to standard D&D.

Let's see what Pramas is cooking, shall we, before going on...?
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