One of the minor differences between ADOM RPG (see the Kickstarter and help us fund more stretch goals) and other roleplaying games always has been that there are 12 dominant star signs that govern the sky (one is predominant in each of the twelve months of the year). Additionally there are Darknight and Silvernight (the former one has a completely black sky without any stars or moon and thus is seen as a night of strong evil while the latter has all the star signs and moon clearly visible as is regarded as a night of good luck and portent positive omens).
Each of the 12 star signs has some special effect (or several effects) on “special” people – the player characters in ADOM RPG are such special people, so there need to be effects defined that slightly alter them.
There are several challenges to this:
- As ADOM RPG is conceived as a fast & furious old school rules system we don’t want to attach fiddly rules to this. We also don’t want to attach rules that slow down the character generation process too much.
- In the ADOM computer game fiddly rules additions never have been a problem because the vast majority of fiddliness is handled by the computer and players just need to keep general factors in mind. For the RPG we obviously need to look for simple modifications.
- “Addons” like star sign modifiers often carry the danger to move players towards optimal builds (if a star sign were to give you +2 to Strength, it’s pretty obvious that most fighting classes will want to have this star sign – which does not make for a good design).
Our goals for the ADOM RPG star sign rules subsystem thus are:
- Be fast to handle during character generation and the actual game.
- Do not create “must have” star signs for certain classes (although being slightly more useful for one class than for another can be ok, as long as there also is a slight disadvantage attached; choices always should be somewhat painful – otherwise they aren’t interesting).
- The system will be different from the computer game (because the computer game works differently and we don’t want to force anyone to have a computer at hand to be able to play the game).
In order to allow for these goals the following design principle has been applied to each and every star sign:
- Each star sign provides three benefits (to make them colorful and feel special; a single effect does not carry enough flavor).
- One of the three effects is broadly useful but not overly powerful.
- One of the three effects will be a narrow add-on to the broad effect.
- One of the three effects will be a very narrow specialization (for even more flavor).
- The broadly useful effect will be useless for classes for which the other two effects are useful improvements (this should help balancing star signs and prevent obvious choices from existing).
What does this mean in practice?
Let’s look at three typical star sign designs:
Favored Aspects: Ferocity, Combat, Might, Rulership, Anger, Combat Magic
- The Martial/Weapons skill category becomes a preferred skill category. (this is the broad effect; for all fighter classes it’s useless because fighters already get this for free; it can be very interesting if you want to play a non-fighter class with some martial aspect as it gives you access to improving your weapon damage by specializing on certain weapons – although at slower speed than true fighters)
- Gain one free skill level in the Berserkering skill. (this plays to the ferocity, anger and might aspects of the star sign; it’s useful for all classes, it is related to the broad bonus and finally it is up to the player to play it either as formal training as a berserker, a hot-headed attitude due to his horoscope or just a tendency towards physical violence)
- Once per day a spell cast offensively in combat will cost 1 PP less than normal (minimum: 1 PP). (this finally is the very narrow specialization; and it is pretty useless to pure fighters but useful for spellcasters and for multi-classed characters that combine fighter/spellcaster aspects)
Obviously we did not add anything special to stress rulership as a star sign aspect – but you can expect rulers born under the Dragon star sign probably to be of the forceful type of ruler.
Favored Aspects: Knowledge, Learning, Law
- The Lore skill category becomes a preferred skill category. (this again is the broad star sign effect; it obviously plays to both the knowledge and learning aspects of the star sign; t is not of much use to the classical classes associated with this star sign like priests or wizards because all of them receive this skill category for free; nonetheless it is very useful to most other classes as Lore skills become easier to learn for them)
- Gain 1 free skill point to spend on Lore skills on levels 1, 6, 12, 24 and 36. (this is the narrow specialization of the first benefit; it is useful to all classes but as most Lore skills are not used that much it’s not overpowering; for spellcasters it is a chance to increase the Concentration skill quicker which actually is quite useful but still not overpowering)
- All corruption damage is reduced by 10% if the character is lawfully aligned. (this is the very narrow specialization useful to all classes as it allows them to resist corruption longer; corruption damage is unlike other damage in the game as it is permanently affixed to your character – more like experience points – and starts altering your character once certain amounts of corruption damage have accrued; take it like a kind of magical radiation you slowly soak up; being more resistant to it thus is very useful in the longer run; its usefulness is somewhat lessened by the fact that it is a passive skill that just will kick in from time to time)
Favored Aspects: Collected Knowledge, Experience, Camaraderie
- The character learns quickly. He receives a +5% modifier to all experience points collected. (this is broadly useful to all classes; but +5% is a small modifier in the overall perspective of the game, so it’s again neither overpowered nor obviously a must-have; it easily is added to your character sheet and thus doesn’t get into your way during play)
- Gain one free skill point on levels 3, 9 and 27. (this is a narrow specialization of the first modifier theme; and because the first modifier is immediately useful for everyone, the second one only comes into play later on and rather rarely; but then it is pretty useful)
- Gain advantage (+1A) on CHA checks at celebrations and festivities. (this is a very narrow specialization for situations that only come up once in a while)
In this way we hope to both carry over Ancardian flavor into the rules and make them easy to use. Selecting a star sign (by default; naturally the Game Master can change this) is one quick die roll. So it barely slows down character generation. 12 star signs wait for you – enjoy! We’d be happy to show you more of Ancardia and the ADOM RPG if you join our Kickstarter!
BTW, the art in this article has been created by Bastian von Gostomski, one of our team artists. He also did the covers for the two ADOM RPG manuals, the faction portraits and other related stuff. You will see a lot more of him in the future!
P.P.S. for ADOM players: You noticed that the Unicorn star sign is a black unicorn, didn’t you? Is that interesting, confusing or bewildering?