Monday, December 05, 2011

E6 for d20

I've never particularly liked high-level play for D&D.

For me, a lot of what makes fantasy gaming fun is the iconic bits from books and movies- guys in armor with swords (or robes, with spells) facing off against Orcs and Goblins and other similar critters.  Once it gets to the point where it is a guy in flying boots air-battling with a host of demons wielding a flaming sword and periodically becoming invisible and invulnerable, I tend to lose interest.

I suppose that is why parts (though not all) of the OSR appeals to me- the back-to-basics, no god-fighting, no MMO-style superpowers and magic armor/weapons/shoes/blankets/hats aspect.  It's probably also why I've always liked WFRP, a game where, v1 naked dwarves aside, even basic opponents had a decent chance of cutting off your arm or something equally terrible if you didn't think carefully and stay cautious about entering a fight.

That's why it was exciting for me to have E6 for d20/Pathfinder pointed out to me in a forum the other day.  It's been around for years, apparently, but entered the world during a time when I wasn't gaming a lot in general, and wasn't playing d20 in particular at all.

E6 has a simple underlying idea: you might be a veteran of a dozen combats, but being hit in the head with an ax by an ogre should still be dangerous.  So after level six, you periodically pick up new feats to represent growing training (a little better at combat, a few more spells, a few new tricks for rogues and bards), but you stop gaining hit points, saves, and other automatic escalations of the game's power level.

The result is that the game retains some of that gritty, early-level feel.  Just because you've been around the block a few times doesn't mean that you can just wade into a pack of 300 goblins without blinking.  That means that iconic, low-level threats like goblins, ogres, orcs, basic undead, etc. stay threatening without the need to add tons of templates and character levels.

The result: a game that keeps the low-level feel of grounded PC's needing to plan and prepare to fight iconic opponents, and a distinct reduction in the amount of preparation that the DM needs to do.  Similarly, higher levels tend to be where the game-breaking magic items, spells, and cheesed-out prestige class/feat chain combinations tend to appear.  Low-level game balance- which is far better play tested and far easier to predict- dominates for a much longer period.  Rituals and magic items can add some extra effects if needed, but a mage can't just wish the entire adventure into total chaos.

Definitely worth a look if you're interested in a similar style of play- you can even grab some Pathfinder-specific E6 rules someone has put together.

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