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Friday, March 7, 2014

Ability Score Drain and Improvement

abilityThere are a couple threads on level drain on two different forums right now. There’s also a blogpost somewhere about diseases. And I think I recall seeing something about training to improves Strength, Intelligence, etc. How are these all related? They all mention lowering or raising ability scores.

Ability drain is the most popular suggestion as a replacement for level drain, or at the very least for the vampire’s blood drinking to distinguish it from a spectre’s chill touch. It’s modeled after the shadow’s Strength drain. Problem for me is: I don’t like it. It creates another thing to track from session to session, like hit points, and ability scores are even harder to restore than levels. And I just don’t like changing the ability score that much; I want it to stay mostly static except after a wish or something similarly extreme.

What I’ve been thinking, however, is that it might not be too bad if you didn’t track it. When a shadow successfully hits a victim, roll 1d6 per shadow’s hit die. If the total is greater than the target’s Strength, the character feels weaker and is treated as overburdened/fatigued (Move 3, must rest twice as long every hour.) On a second failed roll, the character is paralyzed, and on the third, completely drained. All that needs to be tracked is the current condition, which has a chance of going away after a full hour’s rest (5+ on 1d6) and disappears completely after a full night’s rest.

A vampire’s blood drain, or a tick’s blood drain, could be modeled the same way, but based on Con. The vampire would only bite as part of a coup de gras after grappling an opponent, charming, or waiting until the opponent is asleep. Unlike shadows, vampires would space their attacks on sleeping victims over multiple evenings, making only one roll per night: first failure leaves the victim feeling anemic and fatigued, second leaves the victim visibly pallid and only able to move for brief spans, and the third causes death.

And for diseases… well, maybe I’ll cover that in a future post, although you can probably guess what I’m going to say. Ability improvement, too.
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  1. I'm still struggling to figure out how mutable I want ability scores to be. I grew pretty sick of 3E's system of improving scores every few levels and was kinda in love with the idea of ability scores being almost totally static. Then I remembered ability drain and magic. I like the idea of ability scores changing as an accident of adventure - maybe one finds a magic pool that improves vitality, or alters one's sex or height! I think people would find some elements, like constitution affecting system shock rolls, more palatable if their ability scores can change over the course of their adventures, even if they don't have total control over the process

    Regarding level drain: I'd prefer something like 3E's negative levels. It just makes more sense to me; feels less "gamey"

  2. I think that's the simplest and most real-world-lore-friendly way to handle vampires that I've seen. Much more flavorful than bland old level drain - more creepiness and less "screw the players by stealing their hard-won levels." This is definitely going in my next game.