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  1. #1
    Senior Member RaspK_FOG's Avatar
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    Throughout my rather short life, I have to admit, I came up time and time again with unfairness caused by the inability of people having the exact same experience and feelings others have on most matters. Knowing from first-hand experience that such things can only ruin our role-playing sessions on a level that can hurt almost everyone - that of being criticised and call things, like power-player, meta-gamer, and such things - I am here making an effort at clearing things up on a level of balancing two very different aspects of role-playing: Flavour, the distinct feeling that provides as with verisimilititude above all, and Game-Mechanics, that present us with game-balance.

    It has been discussed many times in the past, and it won't stop being discussed any time soon. That much, I assure you, I am aware of pretty well... What matters to me most is that we clear Birthright-related things up on a level that will leave grudges behind. I, first of all, promise to keep a low tone and not insult anyone. This will be the ultimatum of this thread, I hope, that we discuss things in reason.

    To keep things in check, I will present the first issue, and things can go on as they like, but it would be best if you presented others to me first through email; when the current issue is resolved, the next one will be discussed.

    If you are fine with that, so that such issues are not a problem, we will go on in a few hours notice. See you all!

  2. #2
    Site Moderator geeman's Avatar
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    At 07:05 PM 10/8/2003 +0200, RaspK_FOG wrote:



    >I am here making an effort at clearing things up on a level of balancing

    >two very different aspects of role-playing: Flavour, the

    >distinct feeling that provides as with verisimilititude above all, and

    >Game-Mechanics, that present us with game-balance.



    I think a definition of "flavour" needs to be made first off. There is a

    third category of material that needs to be presented. That is, there is

    not only flavour text and game mechanics, there are also campaign

    themes. Flavour text needn`t influence game mechanics, while portraying

    the campaign themes in game mechanics is what makes something a D20 product

    and an individual campaign setting.



    Recently, it seems like certain things in the original materials that are,

    essentially, campaign materials are being described as flavour

    text. Sometimes the campaign material in question might conflict with

    other campaign material--though I think that is more rare than has been

    suggested--or there may not be a ready 3e/D20 method of portraying that

    campaign material, but more often than not there`s no real reason to

    redefine things as flavour for the purpose of the campaign setting as a

    whole. In fact, in a few cases the redefinition seems to obscure several

    aspects of the setting that are really pretty valuable for actual play.



    What`s worse IMO is that in several cases it seems like campaign material

    is dropped or altered in order to make things fit into the 3e/D20 set of

    rules. Aside from the loss of several campaign themes, the 3e rules make

    several attempts to describe how they can be changed for particular

    campaigns, and it is one of the expressed purposes in developing the 3e/D20

    system, so an effort to make campaign material fit into the rules rather

    than adapting the rules to fit the campaign setting is an inverted way of

    going about it. Portraying bloodline in 3e is probably the most obvious

    example of what I`m going to dub "3e formalism" for the sake of this

    issue. Making bloodline an ability score, a character class, a template,

    etc. are all methods that have been used in order to incorporate the idea

    into a 3e update. In fact, all one really needs is a way of accounting for

    the granted powers that fits into 3e`s mechanics, not a completely new way

    of portraying bloodline.



    More significant is the redefinition of things that are pretty clearly

    campaign material and meant to reflect certain campaign specific dynamics

    into flavour text. The most obvious one in this case is the changes of the

    BRCS that several people have expanded upon is in regards to one of the

    most fundamental aspects of the BR setting; bloodline and bloodtheft. The

    ideas expressed by several people, and apparently the Playtest document,

    redefines bloodline as a sort of generic system of political influence

    rather than the BR thematic role of bloodline--the product of an actual

    divine power granted by exposure to energies released at the Battle of

    Deismaar. Now, it needs to be noted that it`s fine to develop a generic

    system of political influence that parallels that of BR. However, that`s

    not what bloodline is meant to be in the campaign setting. This has led to

    several overt game mechanical changes to the setting materials that may be

    inspired by the original BR materials, but don`t reflect the original BR

    materials` theme. Non-scions can be regents, bloodline is transferred as

    the result of any demise hand-to-hand fight, bloodline can be gained by

    non-scions by bloodtheft, etc. All of those things make sense (arguably)

    if bloodline is a generic system of rulership, but none of these things

    appeared in the original materials, not because we didn`t have 2e game

    mechanics to portray them--which we didn`t then any more than we do

    now--but because bloodline isn`t meant to be generic in the original

    campaign materials.



    In the long run the purpose of such flavor/colour commentary needs to be

    defined. As in, what is flavour and, therefore, unlikely to be true vs.

    what is actual campaign material vs. the game mechanical presentation of

    both/either of those two things.



    When it comes to issues of game balance I think the problem isn`t so much

    how to balance things, but simply selling the concept of balance in the

    first place. That is, there are several ways to balance things in

    3e/D20. Templates, ECL, XP penalties, etc. The problem is that for a lot

    of folks having characters that are out of balance appears to be the point

    in developing them. Scions _should_ be out of balance, the thinking is, in

    order to reflect their superiority over commoners. While I agree that that

    is the case, game mechanically one uses some balancing factor not in order

    to compensate other characters or penalize the scion, but in order to

    situate the scion`s power in the game so that adventures and awards are

    appropriately created and granted. One doesn`t balance in order to turn a

    gaming session into a sort of all-encompassing level playing field. The

    playing field can and in may cases should give a decided advantage to

    certain characters. Balance, however, should be used to rate and account

    for that advantage in relation to the rest of the system`s accounting for

    levels, abilities, powers, etc.



    Gary

  3. #3
    Senior Member RaspK_FOG's Avatar
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    I agree with your point of this thread being in need of a specification for what flavour is in contrast to campaign material. However, I have to disagree with your notion that the two are separate; in fact, campaign material encompasses both flavour and game-mechanics!

    Let me recite a recent incident: I was discussing with one of my friends that I had not seen or spoken with for some time about the advantages of some 3.5e changes over their "old" 3e counterparts, especially concerning the ranger and bard classes, which were at last, in my humble opinion, best portrayed. When our conversation reached the matter of bards, initially referring to his loss of proficiency with the tower shield (only fighters get that now! B) ) and medium armour, both of which are logical, and his lack of arcane spell failure chance for wearing light armour ( ), we went on discussing how proper it was that Bardic Music was as level-based as other such abilities of similar character/prestige classes were (see the Virtuoso from Song and Silence, or the Gleeman from The Wheel of Time).

    We then went on, considering how appropriate it was to give a variable DC for the bard's Suggestion ability, and other such tidbits, when we came to the matter of the Fascinate ability. I told him I loved the new version most because the bard can bedazzle an extra creature for every 3 class levels above 1st (when he initially acquires the ability), unlike the "strictly one creature" 3e theme. As I finished, he seemed extremely surprised: he told that's how it worked in 3e too! I told him he was wrong: "I was playing a bard in our party, if you don't remember." Actually, one of the few things I am proud of is good bardic role-playing, and most people who played in the party knew I remembered all rules on Bardic Music (what can I say, I really love the guys&#33, so he considered it, and I went to pick up the 3e book to show him. After he saw what I was referring to, he said: "Well, in the party I am currently playing, George (our old DM, by the way) uses the same ruling for bards as 3.5e!"

    That would be acceptable, and it would have ended then and there, but my friend went on with his line of thought (he also likes bards): "You know, I think it's too bad that the rules don't allow for bards to fascinate anyone within a given range; that's pretty much what the actual effect really is, right?"

    That is an example of putting flavour above game-mechanics. I agree that it sounds more realistic, but if a bard fascinated just about everyone within 30 feet, not 90 feet like the standard rules, it would be far too good...

  4. #4
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    I think a definition of "flavour" needs to be made first off... That is, there is not only flavour text and game mechanics, there are also campaign themes
    While this is true, I think what you are missing here and in the rest of the post is a change in paradigm between 2nd and 3rd edition. The "game theme" has changed, and the issues you raise are, I believe, largely due to the attempt by the d20 BRCS to write in accordance with the new theme.
    I happen to agree with the new theme. The new theme is, I believe, that of options, which implies balanced options, and of uniformity in mechanics. I think that's a good theme, although it should be applied with caution.

    For example:
    Portraying bloodline in 3e is probably the most obvious example of what I`m going to dub "3e formalism" for the sake of this issue. Making bloodline an ability score, a character class, a template, etc. are all methods that have been used in order to incorporate the idea
    into a 3e update. In fact, all one really needs is a way of accounting for the granted powers that fits into 3e`s mechanics, not a completely new way of portraying bloodline.
    While I agree that in principle you could insert the 2nd Edition bloodline system pretty much as-is into the d20 BRCS, I don't agree that is necessarily the best way to go.
    The idea is to mirror the flavor of the old bloodline concept, not neccesarily the mechanics. I am not saying any of the above ideas are the way to go, but they are all merely attempts to create a bloodline system using the tools 3e provides. Nothing wrong with that. Just because some rule was something in 2nd Edition is NOT a good enough reason to preserve it.
    The new theme of consistency and repetition in rule systems motivated all these approaches, and generally I think it is a good one. As I said above, however, it must be used with caution. For example, I believe the bloodline-as-ability does sin in this regard. While it is balanced, sort of, I personally feel that it loses some of the flavor of what bloodlines are. Bloodlines aren't ability scores, they are divine essence. For that reason in my game have chosen not to use bloodline as a 7th ability score. I still use the same numbers, for convinience, but it just doesn't function as an ability score.

    The same can be said as to non-regent rulers (Options are Good is a 3e philosophy), dwarf wizards (again), and many other "converting the setting to fit the rules" cases.

    For the record, in general I think the d20 BRCS team did a good (and ardous&#33 job, and managed to write rules emphasising many of the themes of BR in a d20-friendly manner. While I don't always agree with their choices, they did a good job.
    (As examples of pet peeves: non-blooded usurption rules would have never resulted in Deismaar, the flavor-change for dwarven wizardry is not well handled, the druids excel at the wizard's area - nature, and oh so many others. But these are small in compared to the enormous work which is the d20 BRCS.)

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    I agree with your point of this thread being in need of a specification for what flavour is in contrast to campaign material. However, I have to disagree with your notion that the two are separate; in fact, campaign material encompasses both flavour and game-mechanics!
    True. I think this is where it gets subjective though. I never played BR in 2nd Edition, and to be honest I haven't played it much in 3rd. Perhaps this is why I am more inclined to see flavor in term of themes rather than specific rules.
    While flavor can be conveyed through both, I think in converting BR you need to identify what you feel is setting flavor and retain it, whereas what is added to fit a system or idea not essentially BR-themed. Opinions will vary, of course.
    For example, I see nothing wrong with non-scion rulers, in principle. I wouldn't dream of disallowing someone the chance to try it out, if he wants to. That is improtant for me to preserve verisimilititude . But I don't agree with the d20 BRCS saying that there are non-blooded in all layers of society, including the high-nobility. To me, that goes against the BR flavor, whereas the former doesn't. From what geeman said, I believe he would consider the non-scion regents a breach of BR flavor, for the 2nd Edition rules did not allow it.
    Flavor is in both rules and flavor text, but deciding what is flavor and what is "just rules" or "doesn't uphold the themes of birthright, merely the rules edition" is highly subjective.

  6. #6
    Senior Member RaspK_FOG's Avatar
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    I think that this has strayed a little too far... Yet this could be an interesting discussion, so I will make this our first issue of discussion:

    Where do you think the BRCS has emphasised too much on flavour, and where has it gone astray from flavour to support mechanics, making the new Cerilia insipid and inoriginal?

  7. #7
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    Where do you think the BRCS has emphasised too much on flavour, and where has it gone astray from flavour to support mechanics, making the new Cerilia insipid and inoriginal?
    Just to give a few thoughts before I go to sleep:

    Too Much Flavor: these are largely balance issues; I think every concept can be put in game mechanics, so the only vice possible here is to make the mechanics unbalanced.
    - Some blood abilities being too powerful (most of the boodform/trait chains); it should have been handled with more care to game balance. Because they were in 2nd Edition, the abilties remained in 3e on expense of game balance.
    - Some feats, the Great Heritage template, and other balancing gaffs (read: pet peeves) of mine.
    - Minor bloodlines having no ECL. RIIIGHT, they are that weak...
    - No Monks. Clinging to the flavor of 2E, we have decided to forgo this possiblity, creating less options in the game. (I am not entirely sure that was a bad call; it's certainly a reasonable one.)
    - Wizards=Sorcerers socially. Again, for reasons of 2E flavor (there was no distinction in 2E, so we won't in 3E) we lose a potential for deepening the variety of the campaign - this time, in terms of setting rather than playability. (Again, I am not at all sure this was a bad choice, but it does emphasise flavor over mechanics).

    Too Much Mechanics: where by that I mean where sticking to certain mechanics leads to lost concepts or ideas, which is not to mean that the change is not for the better overall. While flavor is great, a confusing and large ruleset isn't.
    - Bloodline as ability score (I said why above)
    - Lesser magic; in order to preserve the class abilities of bards and so on, this concept was somewhat damaged. There are good ideas in the d20 BRCS to handle this, but they are not carried out to fruition.
    - Much the same can be said about ranger divine magic, and druids. To preserve the classes, the designers chose to undermine the nature=true magic theme. IIRC the situation was the same in 2E, but that doesn't make it right. As far as I am concerned, druids as true mages and rangers casting true magic is the proper rule to preserve BR flavor, and tradition be damned. As it stands, the current mechanics undermine what is one of the essential themes of BR (especially if druids are given source holdings&#33.
    - Dwarves' lack of magic; a theme in 2E that disappeared in 3E, it added flavor that is now lost. The effect of true magic on dwarven society, or the possibility of dwarven magic, could have been more thoroughly explored.
    - Dwarves and stone; they can be made more stone-like using 3E tools such as racial prestige classes and feats. Perhaps the atlas will take care of this.
    - Halflings and shadows; now not every halfling can cross to shadow. I actually think that's a good choice, as it also adds new campaign ideas and options, but it does lose some of the 2E flavor of the race.
    - Paladins for just a few gods. IIRC, the old version had paladins for nearly every god. Take a page out of The Book of the Rightous, and construct some Holy Warriors per faith. (I'm not certain it was a bad call, though: while less flavored, the extra rules will complicate the campaign while adding little.)
    - Clerics are all the same; in 2E they had differences. (Again, for simplicity's sake, this may very well be a right choice, but I list it as it did lead to loss of flavor).

  8. #8
    Site Moderator geeman's Avatar
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    At 01:53 AM 10/9/2003 +0200, Yair wrote:



    > - Paladins for just a few gods. IIRC, the old version had paladins for

    > nearly every god.



    Only Haelyn, Cuircaen, Neserie and Avani had paladins in the original

    materials, and only for Anuireans and Khinasi characters--though the second

    half of that rule was broken pretty dramatically. I`ve argued that there

    should be paladins (or similarly "holy warrior" classes) for all the BR

    gods, and examples have come out several times in various D20 sources,

    Dragon, etc. that could be used for BR pretty easily.



    There does need to be some more attention to the specific class abilities

    for paladins in the BRCS. More sail/water based powers for paladins of

    Neserie, and some of the alignment restrictions might be reviewed a bit

    here and there too. Lawful neutral paladins dedicated to Avani, for

    instance, would support some of the published materials. I`m also not

    particularly sure paladins of Moradin is a good compromise for a 3e version

    of the original BR materials that made dwarven fighter/priest one of the

    more attractive character class options, but if dwarven paladins are to

    remain in the setting then the ability to summon a warhorse should be

    replaced with some ability less bizarre for a stubby dwarven holy warrior.



    Gary

  9. #9
    Site Moderator geeman's Avatar
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    At 12:33 AM 10/9/2003 +0200, Yair wrote:



    >
    I think a definition of "flavour" needs to be made

    > first off... That is, there is not only flavour text and game mechanics,

    > there are also campaign themes
    > While this is true, I think what you are missing here and in the rest of

    > the post is a change in paradigm between 2nd and 3rd edition. The

    > "game theme" has changed, and the issues you raise are, I

    > believe, largely due to the attempt by the d20 BRCS to write in

    > accordance with the new theme.

    > I happen to agree with the new theme. The new theme is, I believe, that

    > of options, which implies balanced options, and of uniformity in

    > mechanics. I think that`s a good theme, although it should be applied

    > with caution.



    I think you`ve pegged one of the changes between 2e and 3e thematically

    (and to an even greater extent D20) which is something that can be very

    useful for BR purposes. Several aspects of 3e`s "increased options" theme

    can and should be employed in BR, but in general I don`t think that`s one

    of the major aspects that`s been incorporated into the BRCS, nor should it

    be. There isn`t the free for all of races, templates, prestige classes and

    monsters in BR that there is in 3e, and going with a "more 3e" version of

    things would make things necessarily "less BR." Certain aspects of 3e`s

    increased options make good sense for BR even though they`ve attracted a

    lot of negative attention in the past. Free multi-classing for humans (and

    all races) is one of the things that many folks were very vocal about when

    it first came out--particularly with the way character class and regency

    interact in BR--but there doesn`t seem to be much of an objection to it now.



    I think many aspects of the "increased options" theme of 3e are good to

    include in a BR update, but like any other aspect of such an update the

    ones employed should be ones that either support BR themes or at least do

    no harm to them.



    >
    Portraying bloodline in 3e is probably the most obvious example

    > of what I`m going to dub "3e formalism" for the sake of this

    > issue. Making bloodline an ability score, a character class, a template,

    > etc. are all methods that have been used in order to incorporate the idea

    > into a 3e update. In fact, all one really needs is a way of accounting

    > for the granted powers that fits into 3e`s mechanics, not a completely

    > new way of portraying bloodline.
    > While I agree that in principle you could insert the 2nd Edition

    > bloodline system pretty much as-is into the d20 BRCS, I don`t agree that

    > is necessarily the best way to go.



    I`m 100% with you on that one. In fact, I`m one of the maniacal fanboys

    who has completely rewritten bloodline for my own use (dubbed the Bloodline

    Point system) and I don`t think that system very much resembles the

    original bloodline system except in some of its broadest terms. The thing

    is, it doesn`t resemble any 3e mechanics very much either. It references

    other D20 products tangentially, but far more closely than it does anything

    in one of the core texts. In regards to how blood abilities are portrayed

    it is generally a superior system--if I do say so myself. (The parts about

    bloodline strength and bloodline score could use a little tweaking as they

    appear to be overly complex for most people`s taste. I also went with a

    3d6 method of determining strength as a sort of nod to the BRCS`s bloodline

    as an ability score method of portraying things. I`m not really married to

    the mechanics of bloodline strength and score, however, so some changes are

    probably in order.)



    A simple translation of the bloodline system that stuck as closely as

    possible to the original one would be better than bloodline as an ability

    score IMO. I even prefer the strangeness of Table 12: Blood Ability

    Acquisition to the ability score method.



    Gary

  10. #10
    Birthright Developer Raesene Andu's Avatar
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    Too Much Flavor: these are largely balance issues; I think every concept can be put in game mechanics, so the only vice possible here is to make the mechanics unbalanced.
    - Some blood abilities being too powerful (most of the boodform/trait chains); it should have been handled with more care to game balance. Because they were in 2nd Edition, the abilties remained in 3e on expense of game balance.
    - Some feats, the Great Heritage template, and other balancing gaffs (read: pet peeves) of mine.
    - Minor bloodlines having no ECL. RIIIGHT, they are that weak...
    - No Monks. Clinging to the flavor of 2E, we have decided to forgo this possiblity, creating less options in the game. (I am not entirely sure that was a bad call; it's certainly a reasonable one.)
    - Wizards=Sorcerers socially. Again, for reasons of 2E flavor (there was no distinction in 2E, so we won't in 3E) we lose a potential for deepening the variety of the campaign - this time, in terms of setting rather than playability. (Again, I am not at all sure this was a bad choice, but it does emphasise flavor over mechanics).
    Right, as the only member of the original developers who seems to still be around at I'll try to answer some of your points.

    1. Bloodtrait/Bloodform
    I don't think balance really comes into it with these two abilties. They are there for a specific reason, to provide for the transformation of characters into Awnsheghlien and Erhsheghlien (primarily NPCs too, not players). They are certainly powerful, but necessary. If you have any balance issues with other bloodline abilities let me know and I'll try to address them.

    2. Feats/Great Heritage/No ECL for minor scions.
    Some feats will be reworked in the revised BRCS. I don't have the full list on me, but there are a few that need changing. I have a lot of problems with the whole bloodline chapter (I personally do not use the 7th ability score and use a bloodline system very similar to the original). On that, I'd like to see something like the following as a means of determining bloodlines.

    Strength....Range......Roll...........ECL.........Abilities
    Tainted......1-10.........1d10........None.......1 minor
    Minor.........11-20.......1d10.........+1..........2 minor, 1 major
    Major.........21-40.......1d20.........+2..........3 minor, 2 major, 1 great
    Great.........41-60.......1d20.........+3..........4 minor, 3 major, 2 great
    True...........50+..........Special......Special.. .5 minor, 4 major, 3 great

    I'm not saying that's the final version, but just something I came up with quickly. The main thing I'd like to see is some reduction in the amount of material you have to wade through to determine your bloodline. A simple table like this would work better.

    3. No Monks
    If you want Monks, then add them. End of story...

    4. This is something of a concern in the whole 3E rules actually, sorcerers are really little more than wizards with different spellcasting rules. In the work I've been doing on Aduria I have actually dropped wizards all together and then created a wizard-like class called a Shadow Mage. Obviously there is more of a difference there, sorcerers draw on mebhaighl, shadow mages draw on awnmebhaighl, the magic of the shadow world to cast their spells.


    Too Much Mechanics: where by that I mean where sticking to certain mechanics leads to lost concepts or ideas, which is not to mean that the change is not for the better overall. While flavor is great, a confusing and large ruleset isn't.
    - Bloodline as ability score (I said why above)
    - Lesser magic; in order to preserve the class abilities of bards and so on, this concept was somewhat damaged. There are good ideas in the d20 BRCS to handle this, but they are not carried out to fruition.
    - Much the same can be said about ranger divine magic, and druids. To preserve the classes, the designers chose to undermine the nature=true magic theme. IIRC the situation was the same in 2E, but that doesn't make it right. As far as I am concerned, druids as true mages and rangers casting true magic is the proper rule to preserve BR flavor, and tradition be damned. As it stands, the current mechanics undermine what is one of the essential themes of BR (especially if druids are given source holdings&#33.
    - Dwarves' lack of magic; a theme in 2E that disappeared in 3E, it added flavor that is now lost. The effect of true magic on dwarven society, or the possibility of dwarven magic, could have been more thoroughly explored.
    - Dwarves and stone; they can be made more stone-like using 3E tools such as racial prestige classes and feats. Perhaps the atlas will take care of this.
    - Halflings and shadows; now not every halfling can cross to shadow. I actually think that's a good choice, as it also adds new campaign ideas and options, but it does lose some of the 2E flavor of the race.
    - Paladins for just a few gods. IIRC, the old version had paladins for nearly every god. Take a page out of The Book of the Rightous, and construct some Holy Warriors per faith. (I'm not certain it was a bad call, though: while less flavored, the extra rules will complicate the campaign while adding little.)
    - Clerics are all the same; in 2E they had differences. (Again, for simplicity's sake, this may very well be a right choice, but I list it as it did lead to loss of flavor).
    5. Lesser Magic
    I orginally thought the idea of cutting the bard spell list to just lesser magic spells a good idea. It does require some work, and you would need to introduce some new spells (perhaps some unique to bards) to replace those lost, but it is something I thought would work. No one else went with that idea at the time, but if I'm left to work on the revision of the BRCS on my own, it may be something I consider adding. By the way, I'll set a tentative release date of the revised BRCS AND the Atlas of Cerilia of around january next year. Both book don't have many people still writing for them, so that has increased the time it will take to complete them.

    6. Nature=True Magic and Rangers and Druids.
    I concor with your thoughts on this. Already dicussing this on another thread though.

    7. Dwarves and Halflings.
    From what I've seen of the revisions so far, nothing much has changed, apart from the damage reduction thingy (DR 4/slashing or piercing now, or something like that).
    Halflings I also like, not a lot of major changes needed there.

    8. Paladins and priests.
    I also like the idea of paladins for all religions. As for priests/clerics, I'd have to say that the 2E rules for these speciality priest were unbalanced, but I did like the differences between the religions. I'm proposing changing the domains for the clerics to make them more unique (and to restrict certain news spells that I'm working on just to clerics of a certain faith). Another option is to have a different list of class skills for different faiths, or something like that. The Atlas will also feature some prestige classes for specific religions, but not one for each...

    Anyway, that's all I can post for now. I have to dash, Dr Who is coming on TV.
    Let me claim your Birthright!!

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