Adventuring Variants

( ⇪ Game Feel )

The core of how the game feel differs in this setting lies in these variants. These variants affect every creature and character regardless of how that creature is built.

Action Points

In a nutshell: Similar to 4e action points, but much more versatile.

Action points give characters the means to affect game play in significant ways, by improving important rolls or unlocking special abilities. Each character has a limited number of action points, and once an action point is spent, it is gone for good.

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Armor As Damage Reduction

In a nutshell: You can choose to buy armor that gives Damage Reduction (DR).

When you buy armor, you can choose between “deflective” (standard-issue) and “ablative” variants of that armor. Ablative armor reduces the amount of damage dealt by an attack instead of merely turning would-be hits into misses. Ablative armor still prevents some hits outright, but also reduces the deadliness of attacks that do connect. In essence, ablative armor “gives up” some of armor’s ability to turn hits into misses in exchange for a small reduction in damage dealt by any given attack. (All other armor statistics, such as maximum Dexterity bonus, armor check penalty, and arcane spell failure chance, are unchanged.)

“New DR” = Half of “Old Armor Bonus” rounded down (untyped DR)

“New Armor Bonus” = Half of “Old Armor Bonus” rounded up + Enhancement Bonuses (if any)

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Bell Curve Rolls

In a nutshell: Average rolls become more likely, fringe rolls become less likely.

Here’s perhaps the most fundamental variant to the d20 rules: Don’t use a d20! Instead, roll 3d6 whenever you would roll a d20, applying bonuses and penalties normally. The possible results when rolling 3d6 (or any other multiple dice) form a bell curve — that is, a range of odds that favors average results much more than extreme results.

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Complex Skill Checks

In a nutshell: Similar to 4e skill challenges. There are also complex ability checks.

A specific number of successful skill checks must be achieved to complete the task. The complexity of the task is reflected in the DC of the required check, the number of successful rolls required to complete the task, and the maximum number of failed rolls that can occur before the attempt fails. In most cases, one or two failed rolls does not mean that a complex skill check has failed, but if three failed rolls occur before the character makes the required number of successful rolls, the attempt fails. Although three failures is a common baseline, game masters are encouraged to change the number if the situation warrants it.

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Death And Dying

Under the standard d20 rules, unconsciousness and death are predictable states: When a character reaches negative hit points, he goes unconscious. When he reaches -10, he dies.

This variant takes away some of that predictability. No longer does a dying character have a set number of rounds to live. This heightens the tension in combat when one of your allies has fallen, because you don’t know exactly when the clock is going to run out.

With this variant, characters can’t be reduced to negative hit points — 0 is the minimum. There is no automatic hit point total at which a character dies. Instead, any character who takes damage that reduces his hit points to 0 must make a Fortitude save (an “Injury save”) to avoid falling unconscious or dying.

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Defense Bonus

In a nutshell: Class level bonus to Armor Class (AC), alternative to armor.

In the standard d20 rules, a character’s skill at attacking gets better as he goes up in level — but not so his skill at avoiding attacks. Characters rely on armor and an ever-growing collection of magic items to protect them in combat. But what about campaigns in which it’s not common or appropriate for characters to go everywhere in full plate? Hyperion Voyages is one such campaign setting.

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Game Clock is Different

Hyperion Voyages is balanced on the assumption that the game is run on a much smaller in-game time frame and uses villains that express their timetables in days instead of weeks or months. A party might have 8 to 16 encounters in a given 24 hour period. For this reason and others, caster archetypes and other characters that require a night’s rest to recharge have to plan their daily allotment and use their energies very carefully even though they can potentially use those energies many more times per day thanks to short-term recharge methods.

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Item Rarity

Your ability to find any given item in a community is influenced by a number of factors:

Table: Item Availability Factors
Factor Description Relevant Term
Population The size of the community. The community’s “GP Limit”
Fame How much word of your deeds has spread. Your party’s “highest ECL”
Availability How much supply of it might be available. “Rarity Rating” (usually 0)
Legality How legal it is to have the item. “Illegality Code” (usually none)

These factors are tools for monitoring and limiting how powerful or rich the PCs can become through buying and selling items. It’s vital that the GM understand the concepts of “Item Levels” (IL) (MIC p226) and the “GP Limit” (DMG p137). The following methodology is used both for finding an item for sale and for finding someone to purchase an item (such as loot), but for simplicity’s sake the terms below assume you’re looking to buy.

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Passive Checks and Saves

Let’s face it. Sometimes… players can be really… really… stupid.

When I look at their character’s ability scores and skills, in-character they wouldn’t automatically be that stupid or ignorant. A player will sometimes do things like see a pit that seems to be sparkling at the bottom and have their character jump right in to get the “jewels” without checking the pit for traps or even check how deep it is. Their character would — in-character — automatically question it (essentially a DC 3 wisdom or dungeoneering check), but the player might not. That is player stupidity. When a player does something really stupid, it hurts everyone. It hurts that player because their character might instantly die or otherwise “lose”. It hurts the other characters because they might instantly be a man down in a tough situation. Finally, it hurts you as GM because their stupidity might derail or even ruin your entire campaign because that PC might be important (perhaps even really important) to the story. We’ve all seen it happen time and time again. Sometimes it works out for the better in the end… but often, it doesn’t.

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Pathfinder Combat Maneuvers

In a nutshell: This includes grapple, disarm, trip, etc. and some minor additions.

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Players Roll All The Dice

In a nutshell: Gives the players more control over what happens.

In large combats, players often have little control over the outcome of events when it isn’t their turn. This can lead to boredom if a player’s attention drifts between his turns, threatening to distance him from the outcome of events. One method of dealing with this problem is to put more dice rolling into your players’ hands: allow your players to make all of the dice rolls during the combat.

NPCs and monsters still make rolls (and can press their luck) for effects not directly related to a player’s actions (such as for NPC vs monster combat and for the purposes of their own Injury saves). Although it was important before for players to call out the result of their base roll before modifiers, with this variant, the call-outs become vital to keep the game fair.

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Reserve Points

In a nutshell: Similar to D&D 4e healing surges, but also triggers automatically.

This variant gives each character a capacity to recover quickly from damage. This capacity, measured as reserve points, replenishes lost hit points quickly after a fight. Thus, characters may be wounded and near death by the end of a fight, but then recover to full strength (or nearly full strength) before the next fight begins.

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Roll Control

In a nutshell: You can significantly manipulate what dice you roll.

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Save Points

In a nutshell: This makes saving throws at least partially a gradual defense.

Your Save Points are Fortitude Points (FP a.k.a. “your immune system”), Reflex Points (RP a.k.a. “your reflexes”), and Will Points (WP a.k.a. “your willpower”), and have a minimum of 0 and a maximum of “100+5×[that save’s base bonus]”.

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Skill Advantages

In a nutshell: To give skill ranks more meaning, in various circumstances you’ll add your number of ranks in a skill to a roll.

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In a nutshell: A new value called “Strife” is added to your character sheet, which represents certain kinds of “stress” chipping away at your resolve and morale. Whenever you take strife or nonlethal damage you add both together and check whether you’ve become so stressed that you take penalties or flee.

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Variable Modifiers

Any time a character would roll a 3d6, they can choose whether or not to “press their luck” and change their static modifier on the roll to a variable equivalent. A character must first decide on whether to press their luck before making the associated 3d6 roll. The player then rolls 3d6 and any roll-result-specific events (such as a natural 3 or 18) are noted. The player rolls the variable modifier dice (if any) separately (usually after the 3d6 roll, to avoid confusion) and adds the result to their 3d6.

Creatures can’t choose to press their luck in the following circumstances:

  • Whenever the creature is unconscious,
  • on initiative checks unless you’re part of the surprise round, OR
  • on flatfooted AC checks.

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XP is Different

I use a few variants that intrinsically change the way XP is handled. Overall, this will create fewer headaches in the long run compared to the way the original XP rules worked.

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Adventuring Variants

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