This is a compilation of some of the frequently asked questions we’ve encountered over on our Google+ community and the RPG forums around the Net. With special thanks to Travis Casey for collating the prototype of this document! Thanks Travis!
Our FAQ is divided into the following sections:
Q: What do Druids gain from their animal forms when they Shapeshift? Do they get all physical abilities of the animal, including attributes, HP, AC, and attacks?
It depends on how much detail you want to go into: druids acquire the “natural abilities” of the creature they shapechange into, which would include related traits, attacks, and physical attributes. To be precise, you could recalculate hit points based on the druid’s level, as hit points are not just about physical mass but include a creature or character’s experience, skill, and so on. For armour class, use the creature’s Dexterity and natural armour bonus, but the druid’s level.
If you’re not wading into combat with the shapechanged druid, then you probably don’t need that much detail; you could just let the druid describe his actions as a member of the shapechanged species, with a handful of traits and changed physical attributes (plus the obvious things like not being able to speak, etc…). Go into as much detail as you need, but in many cases you may not need that much.
In some ways using Shapechange is a little like having a “built-in” sidekick, in that it allows you broader scope of action and expanded abilities. If you’re making shapechanging a very significant part of your druid character, you might even choose to maintain a separate character sheet for your shapechanged form.
Q: I’m curious about races since I’m interested in modifying them/adding others. I can’t tell how they stack up against each other – for example, Elf has nine traits and no class restrictions, while Halfling has five traits and three class restrictions. How does that work?
We’ve gone for an old school approach to races (and incidentally also classes), so a strict mechanical balance was less a priority than clear niche protection and fidelity to the classic tropes.
It’s worth mentioning that there isn’t a direct 1-to-1 relationship between how many traits you have and how powerful you are – it’s more a question of depth and how widely you can describe your character’s actions. In that sense, for example, elves are “broader” in their initial scope for action than halflings – but they still only get the same trait bonus (unless they can stack those traits in some way). It’s the same thinking that makes flaws a good thing for your character to have.
Q: If a Magic User wears no armor and uses a Quarterstaff or Dagger, do they get to add their level to their AC?
Yes, they do. See “Xiola’s Story” on pg 27 for an example.
Spending Effect Points
Q: Sometimes our PCs perform actions that give them zero effect points, and I didn’t know what to do with the success (for example: running at someone and never getting there). Other times they have loads of effect points, and didn’t know what to spend them on.
Effect points are there to support your description; you’re absolutely fine to simply use them as a rough guide to the degree of success or failure for purely descriptive purposes. But, equally, bear in mind effects can linger; if you spot a secret door with 10 ep, you can give yourself an I see secrets! type major effect which will give you a +4 on subsequent similar actions until the next time you fail. That could be right through to the end of the adventure! Of course, you can only have one effect of each type at a time, so you might want to replace that “I see secrets!” major effect with a fear me I am the orc killer! major effect the next time you’re in combat…
Regarding running and never getting there; was one PC having trouble closing range on an opponent? Remember that if you’re not engaged in combat you can automatically move up to your Movement in 10-foot units without making a check. Using ep to change range comes in when either you’re already engaged in combat, or you’re trying to take an attack action to let you move and do damage in the same action. If you fail on these latter two, and are unable to close range, then that’s probably because either your opponent wouldn’t let you (maybe they retreated an equal amount, or evaded, or fended you off with a barrage of blows or covering fire), or because you screwed up in some way – perhaps you miscalculated the distance, or were too hesitant or cautious.
Q: Let’s say I’m trying to be stealthy. What’s the difference between being stealthy and only getting a simple success, and being stealthy and gaining an effect?
Start by thinking about your next action. What were you using stealth for? Usually creeping about isn’t an end in itself – you’re trying to backstab, or sneaking for a better look at something, or trying to get past a guard. If you gain effect points on such a roll, you can get an effect which will give you a bonus to a subsequent action. Sneaking up to eavesdrop? A minor effect on your stealth check gives you a +2 on your eavesdropping roll. Sneaking up to hide from view? You now have a hidden in shadows effect which gives you a +2 on appropriate actions until you leave the shadows. Can’t think of anything? Don’t sweat it – sometimes actions really are just binary success / fails. You’ll find as you get used to it you can get quite creative, though, and often shorter-term effects are as useful as more lasting ones, because you can tailor them to what you immediately plan to do next.
Q: Can I give half my effect points as assistance to an ally and use 5 say for myself (like to move a range band). The examples seem to show assistance points being all or nothing.
You can if it makes sense with the action you’re describing. For example, if you had to advance into a room to help someone lift a gate, then that’s how you’d do it: you’d spend 5 or 10 effect points for the required movement effects, then the rest of the ep would be your helping bonus. Helping (or hindering) is the action you take – that’s the action check you make – so you’re not doing something else at the same time. So, you couldn’t attack a foe, do max damage, then give the excess to your ally – because that’s not a helping action.
However, if you describe it right, you may be able to use your excess effect points to create an effect which your ally might be able to take advantage of – that’s not a helping action.
Q: So the Leadership in Battle Advancement for the Fighter/Paladin says “Leadership in Battle: give helping bonuses (page 39) to multiple people in battle, dividing your effect points between them.”
Does that mean splitting helping bonus among multiple people is not something anybody can do?
That’s right. All actions by default just affect a single target, and that includes helping and hindering actions. To affect multiple targets, you need an area effect (p59), which you can gain for a given action as an advancement. Note that bardic songs work as area effects by default – that’s one of the perks of being a bard.
Q: How do area effects work?
The area effect advancement (p59) allows characters to affect multiple targets with a single action. To do so, they roll their action as normal, then split the effect points generated among targets within the area as they wish.
Area effects are used where such a “dilution” of effectiveness makes sense. Some attacks can affect multiple targets without using the area effect rules; spells like Entangle and Fireball and some explosions are examples; the key is that they affect all targets in a specific area of effect equally, usually by making a single action check, which is then measured against all applicable targets individually to derive effect points for that target.
Q: Does applying Effect Points as mental hit point damage have a max cap like physical hit points that cap at the max of the weapon used? If a mental/intimidation attack doesn’t use an explicit social weapon, does it have a MHP cap?
Yes, it does. The relevant rule is on pg 43, right after the bolded text: “You can do no more mental damage than your appropriate ATT or damage die (if you have one), plus your level.”
Combat and Conflicts
Q: In my last session, four archers shot at the PCs. They all rolled so poorly that they incurred consequences; two shot their friends, and two had bowstrings break. It felt like the PCs were facing the worst archers in the world, and it took a while to decide on the consequences and how the points would be spent.
Consequences on failure probably are the biggest change of mindset in Monsters & Magic. Most RPG resolution mechanics throw away failed rolls as “wasted rolls”, attributing no interest or significance to them and moving straight onto the next die roll. In the Effect Engine you don’t have to do that; you can focus on failure just as much as success to winkle out dramatic or game mechanical significance. Giving equal weight to both failure and success can take a bit of getting used to. However, you don’t always have to do this; the rules are always there to support your description of events, not constrain them. Consequences are there to help keep the game going and avoid wasted rolls where appropriate; sometimes actions really are binary success / fails. In combat, we use consequences as penalties more than anything; you could describe the archers exposing themselves to attack, or stumbling, or the ever-popular disadvantageous position, which would give them a penalty to their attacks and defences. Don’t forget ripostes. Also, if your PCs are trying to close range when an enemy archer incurs a minor or major consequence, you could exploit that to mean the archer accidentally got too close and is now in range.
Q: About Effects/Consequences and actions: If I suffer a Major consequence: knocked down, do I need to make an Action Check generating 10 Effect points to get back up again? Or if I am un-engaged, but still in combat can I just get back up?
It depends on circumstances and how that consequence is described. If you’re knocked down with a major consequence, for example, then you’d be at -4 if you tried to do anything where being knocked down was a problem. So, definitely if you’re engaged in combat. You can stay knocked down and incur a running -4 on your actions, or you can invest 10 effect points in getting back on your feet and shedding the penalty.
If you’re not engaged – again, it depends. If you’re not trying to do anything else in that round, and you don’t even have to defend, then I’d say you can just stand up – no roll needed, it’s an automatic success. But you could try and stand up and throw yourself to grab a lever on a wall or a potion from a backpack, in the same round; in that case, you’d need to make an action check, and either take a -4 and stay knocked down, or spend 10 effect points to get up and continue with your action.
The key is that the description of the consequence (or effect) defines its applicability, and the description of your subsequent actions determines whether it applies and how you can remove it. The descriptions lead the rules.
Q: Are “weapon proficiencies” something that can be purchased with advancement?
Yes. You can multi-class into another class that has a desired set of weapon proficiencies (pg 60), or you can take proficiency in an individual weapon as a personal trait (pg 57). If you choose to multi-class to gain additional proficiencies, you can only use the levels in the new class for your trait bonus when using the new weapons that gives you access to and, if there are weapons your previous class gave you access to that the new class does not, you can only use the levels with that class for your trait bonus with those weapons.