Monday, May 6, 2013

[Q&A] John Berry (Arcana Rising)

[19:03] <+J_Arcana_Rising> I am John Berry, founder of Bedroom Wall Press, and author of the currently Kickstarting Arcana Rising.
[19:04] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Arcana Rising is an urban fantasy roleplaying game that aims to marry old-school D&D with a modern setting, and is powered by the same system as the best-selling Hulks and Horrors.
[19:06] <+J_Arcana_Rising> we're currently sitting at 122% funding, but looking to hit further stretch goals so we can hire Sam Drost for layout, add in some illustration, and extend the book to include a sample setting.
[19:07] <+J_Arcana_Rising> You can find the Kickstarter page here: (Link:
[19:10] <+fantomx11> umm, JA, you might want to check that link
[19:10] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Oops. How did that happen?
[19:10] <+J_Arcana_Rising> (Link:
[19:11] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Oh yeah, and fantomx11 here is the guy who gets hired on if we hit the first stretch goal.
[19:11] <~Dan> Cool. :)
[19:13] <+fantomx11> ready for questions?
[19:13] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Yup.
[19:13] <~Dan> Okay! Would anyone like to get us started?
[19:14] <+fantomx11> have you made any changes to the system from H&H?
[19:15] <+J_Arcana_Rising> fantomx11: The system is being extended to level 12 by default , and as such Saves now do increase slightly with level, and To-Hit progression has been adjusted slightly from the values you'll get from the "levels past 6" rules in H&H.
[19:15] <+J_Arcana_Rising> I've also replaced class special bonuses to stat checks for the most part by an actual skill system this time.
[19:18] <~Dan> How broad are the skills?
[19:18] <+J_Arcana_Rising> AS part of the skill system, there's also now a "day job" system, which seperates the D&D style classes from one's day-to-day profession, the latter of which provides your non-combat skills, while the former focuses primarily on combat abilities.
[19:18] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Dan: Non-stat-linked, and pretty general-ish categories for the most part.
[19:18] <~Dan> Why non-stat-linked?
[19:18] <+J_Arcana_Rising> So there's a "Science" instead of, say "Biology/Physics/etc.".
[19:19] <~Dan> Or do you mean you can use a different stat based upon the circumstances?
[19:19] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Dan: I've always liked systems where skills describe a knowledge base, rather than a talent.
[19:19] <+J_Arcana_Rising> And yeah.
[19:20] <~Dan> So it is stat+skill, but the skills aren't hardwired to a given stat?
[19:20] <+J_Arcana_Rising> If you have Driving, it could add to DEX to actually get around a tight corner, or WIS to be able to tell what that knocking noise in the engine is, or INT to recognize a type of car or fix the engine.
[19:20] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Yes.
[19:20] <~Dan> Gotcha. I prefer it that way, myself.
[19:21] <~Dan> You mentioned "combat abilities"... Is combat based on skill?
[19:22] <+J_Arcana_Rising> For the most part no.  Character's have a ranged and melee to-hit value that raises with level much like in H&H.
[19:22] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Though there are "weapon skills" they simply entail being able to use that class of weapon without penalty.
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[19:22] <~Dan> Ah, I see.
[19:22] <+J_Arcana_Rising> There's also a Martial Arts skill, which can be added to STR for the purposes of melee damage when attacking unarmed.
[19:23] <~Dan> Cool.
[19:23] <~Dan> What are the classes?
[19:24] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Rogue, Wizard, Cleric, Gunfighter, Gladiator, Champion, Forestwalker.
[19:26] <~Dan> Could you describe the non-traditional ones?
[19:27] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Gunfighter and Gladiator basically split the Fighter, the former obviously focusing on modern firearms, and the latter focusing on melee combat.
[19:28] <+J_Arcana_Rising> The Champion is sort of like a spell-less Paladin. They have a chosen weapon that in their hands becomes a holy, magic instrument through the power of their faith, and can even turn away unholy forces.
[19:29] <+J_Arcana_Rising> The Forestwalker is a rethink of the druid/shaman concept, which Maru is largely credited with inventing. They choose a totem spirit, and gain buffs from that as well as the present season, and also possess the ability to commune with animals, and heal people by sacrificing life from trees.
[19:32] <~Dan> Do you keep limitations on weapons?
[19:33] <+J_Arcana_Rising> The classes all have limits in terms of what weapon skills they know by default, and what armor they can use without penalty, but there are ways to pick up other weapon skills through one's job and education.
[19:33] <+Silverlion> How well do these fit actual Urban Fantasy archetypes, in your view?
[19:34] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Silverlion: Well, I am focusing on sort of a blend between classic D&D archetypes, and Dresden/Buffyverse style urban fantasy, and I think so far they do that quite admirably.
[19:35] <+J_Arcana_Rising> The classes have been reconsidered and tweaked so that even the classics fit a little more clearly to a modern/urban fantasy vibe.
[19:35] <~Dan> I was about to ask how people fall into classes in terms of the setting, but perhaps you should describe the setting first?
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[19:36] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Dan: The basic backstory is that centuries ago when Atlantis was still above the waves, they aimed to grab control of all magical power by binding the source of arcane power to a great wellspring in what is now Antartctica.
[19:37] <~Dan> Oh, quick pause...
[19:37] <~Dan> Is that you, Jasmine?
[19:37] <+mib_113wow> Yes
[19:38] <~Dan> You can set your name using the "/nick" command.
[19:38] <~Dan> (As in, "/nick Jasmine")
[19:38] <+J_Arcana_Rising> When Atlantis fell, the wellspring was sealed, and with it, arcane magic itself was all but locked away from the world, and the supernatural beings who depended on it largely fled to the outer planes and thus only occasionally intruded on our plane.
[19:39] <+J_Arcana_Rising> And then the Russians started drilling in Antarctica.
[19:39] <~Dan> Everyone, this is Jasmine. She's working on that reality show I told you about, The Quest.
[19:40] <+Silverlion> Allo Jasmine.
[19:40] <~Dan> She's just checking the place out. Her compatriot Luke, the casting producer, will be doing a Q&A on Wednesday.
[19:40] <~Dan> (Please proceed, JA. :) )
[19:40] <+Silverlion> Awesome. Sadly, I'm gaming then (barring hiccups.)
[19:41] <+J_Arcana_Rising> It turns out the wellspring of magic in legend and lore is in fact what we now know as Lake Vostok.
[19:41] <+Yalborap> What reality show is this, now?
[19:41] <+mib_113wow> Hi Everyone! Just trying to figure out how to change my nick name. Please don't mind me.
[19:42] <~Dan> Jasmine: Type /nick Jasmine
[19:42] *** mib_113wow is now known as Jasmine
[19:42] <~Dan> There we go. :)
[19:42] <+J_Arcana_Rising> The ones that Russian scientists have been drilling in the Antarctic, slowly but surely releasing the source of magic back into the world the closer they get to the waters themselves, until finally breaching the seal altogether.
[19:42] <+Jasmine> Lol, that was simple. Thanks!
[19:42] <~Dan> Certainly. :)
[19:44] <~Dan> (Jasmine: I sent you a private message. You should see the tab at the top of your window.)
[19:44] <~Dan> JA: How quickly was the change made evident, and how?
[19:47] <+J_Arcana_Rising> It's been recently that the full force of the magical wellspring was unleashed, though the drilling process itself seems to have been enough to breach the seal as early as a decade and a half or so ago.
[19:48] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Mostly, the force of it was discovered by occultist circles. Some latent magical energy still worked, and some monstery sightings and stuff have been going on in the intervening centuries, but only since the seal was broken has it been that the "real spells" actually started working.
[19:49] <+J_Arcana_Rising> And once arcane magic began to flow again, it attracted the attention of preternatural beings, as well as divine attention, shoring up the power it imbued in the faithful in the face of the potential new threat.
[19:50] <+Silverlion> Interesting. So you've got a full on setting, or just an "understood" one?
[19:50] <+J_Arcana_Rising> By and large though, most people still don't know that magic works now, and a lot of them probably still wouldn't believe you.
[19:50] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Silverlion: I'm aiming for implied but with a skeleton of a backstory to work with, much as I did with Hulks and Horrors.
[19:51] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Though if we hit the $2,000 level, I'll be including a sample city, Central Valley/
[19:51] <~Dan> So to get to the question I was going to ask earlier: How have people had time to fall into the class roles?
[19:51] <~Dan> Like, how long does it take for someone to learn to be a Forestwalker?
[19:52] <+Silverlion> Cool.
[19:52] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Dan: The non-supernatural classes are pretty much just folks who's natural talents are suddenly a lot more useful.
[19:52] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Wizards are largely folks who previously had an interest in the occult but suddenly discovered they had a lot more power to work with, and some of those old flashier spells that everyone thought were phony now actually work.
[19:53] <+Silverlion> How does that ties into some people's religious beliefs?
[19:53] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Clerics and Champions have always held some divine power simply through their faith, but as new supernatural threats arise, the strength of their prayer and the divine will flowing through them has increased to match the growing preternatural threat.
[19:54] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Forestwalkers on the other hand are mostly folks who already showed some latent shamanic connection, and it's even suggested that they may actually have some lingering blood of the old fae or nature beings or druids themselves.
[19:55] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Magic was never entirely gone, and in particular the force of life and nature itself has always held power even with the absence of the raw arcane force of the old leylines.
[19:55] <+xyphoid_> How are you doing modern clerics? All religions work for them?
[19:56] <+J_Arcana_Rising> So in a lot of cases it's more that stuff that was merely subtle before now really works on a level it never did before.
[19:56] <+Silverlion> (AFk Dogs need to goto the park.)
[19:56] <+Silverlion> Cool.
[19:57] <+J_Arcana_Rising> xyphoid_: I've tried to be pretty open with the concepts so that they'll readily apply to most folk's beliefs that bear a supernatural element.  The book is deliberately cagey about terminology, referring only to the "divine will", and by and large I'm trying to assume a sort of "all are merely sides of the same higher power" kind of approach.
[20:00] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Even some of the stuff that is taken from the more seemingly Judeo-Christian background, like the holy water ability, I only included after doing some research to confirm there was actually a far wider history of the concept in other faiths.
[20:01] <+J_Arcana_Rising> I want my games to be as accepting as I can within the structure of the setting, so that everyone can bring their own beliefs to the table and find a way to make it work for them.
[20:02] <~Dan> So if flashy D&D-style magic has started working, how is the supernatural staying hidden?
[20:03] <+J_Arcana_Rising> For the most part, because it's not that widespread yet.
[20:03] <+J_Arcana_Rising> There's only so many people with the talent and knowhow to pick up Wizardry yet.
[20:04] <+J_Arcana_Rising> It's very much an emerging setting, so it can go any way the DM likes from there.
[20:04] <+J_Arcana_Rising> You could go for subtle conspiracy, "people don't want to believe", or even just go straight into Shadowrun territory.
[20:05] <+J_Arcana_Rising> I'll try and include some advice for handling and explaining each approach to players in a reasonable fashion, but I want it to be flexible.
[20:06] <~Dan> So there aren't any goblin hordes running amock yet?
[20:07] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Not regularly, but part of the game will entail the players dealing with it when they do find their way from the outer planes to the material one.
[20:08] <~Dan> On a related note, how are you handling the magic-vs.-tech angle? I doubt goblins hold up well against machine guns...
[20:09] <+J_Arcana_Rising> They probably die just as readily to bullets as ancient magical swords, given enough of them. ;)
[20:09] <+J_Arcana_Rising> I do not want to do the "wizards can't use tech" excuse, or the "everything supernatural is immune to bullets so we can show more kickass kungfu fights" thing either.
[20:10] * ~Dan nods
[20:10] <+J_Arcana_Rising> I'm even working on some ideas on "enchantment scrolls", so that gun-weilders won't get left out of the fun when it comes to stumbling across ancient magical loot.
[20:10] <~Dan> Ah... magic firearms, eh?
[20:11] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Could be, could be. :)
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[20:12] <~Dan> Have you considered magic interacting with any other modern-day tech? Like, say, computers?
[20:12] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Just depends on how the weapon balance works out. I want both to be viable options, so if ancient swords=yes, magically imbued assault rifle = no, is how that's gonna work, I won't be afraid to take that angle either.
[20:12] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Dan: Well, wizards apparently have taken to using iPads as spellbooks ... ;)
[20:13] <+J_Arcana_Rising> and I'm planning on bringing some of the Urban Arcana SRD spells into it, and maybe some of the powers from H&H even, so there's some finger-wiggling to be done that'll be relevant to modern tech.
[20:13] <+fantomx11> is there a spellbook app?
[20:13] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Yes.
[20:13] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Though I'm still debating the idea of downloadable spells.
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[20:14] <+Silverlion> Cool.
[20:14] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Wizards can cast any spell from their spellbook, so if learning new spells is as easy as downloading them from uTorrent, it could quickly get overpowering ...
[20:14] <~Dan> So you're thinking of magical gadgeteering, perhaps?
[20:14] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Dan: Less that, and more just spells specifically designed to fiddle with tech, though perhaps in only disruptive ways.
[20:15] <~Dan> Ah.
[20:15] <+J_Arcana_Rising> finger-wiggling your way past a security door, or blacking out the lights in a building, that kind of thing seems to be a staple of the genre.
[20:15] * ~Dan nods
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[20:16] <+J_Arcana_Rising> whoops. Wrong button, sorry for that.
[20:21] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Ooh, neat, I may've just sourced a cool illo for the owlbear in the monster section ... ;)
[20:22] <~Dan> So speaking of monsters, what's the status of things like dragons?
[20:23] <+J_Arcana_Rising> There will be dragons.
[20:23] <~Dan> How do they stay under wraps?
[20:23] <+J_Arcana_Rising> I am to keep pretty much all the iconic D&D classics, albeit often reimagined or reinterpreted in ways that link a little more directly to the metaphysics of the setting and to real-world mythology.
[20:24] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Well, for the most part, most magical creatures didn't stick around in our plane after the arcane was sealed away.
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[20:24] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Supernatural beings need magic the way we do air or food, they need it to survive.
[20:25] <~Dan> (Howdy, AWOLJoe!)
[20:25] <+J_Arcana_Rising> so when it dried up on earth, they fled to the outer planes where magic still flowed, only sometimes intruding on our world.
[20:25] * ~Dan nods
[20:26] <+AWOLJoe> (Hello!)
[20:26] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Now that they can "breathe" on Earth again, more will start appearing, as they look for food, gold to hoard, whatever it is that the material plane might offer them.
[20:26] <+J_Arcana_Rising> And of course, some creatures may already have been around all along as well.
[20:27] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Demons for instance, really _are_ real, and they derive power from suffering, madness, and destruction. Demonic possession existed as a technique because it allowed them to survive in the material plane without magic. Now though, maybe some might not bother so much ...
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[20:30] <+Silverlion> Interesting. What creature is your favorite?
[20:31] <+J_Arcana_Rising> I've got some cool ideas for a mind flayer reimagining ... ;)
[20:31] <+J_Arcana_Rising> And the bugbear is going to be a bit more literal than the D&D version is ... ;)
[20:31] <~Dan> So there will be psionics?
[20:32] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Nah, this new "cthulhian" thing is more focused on the madness angle.
[20:32] <+J_Arcana_Rising> They're kinda like white court vampires in Dresden, except they do still eat brains ...
[20:33] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Driving their victims into a demented stupor so they will subject themselves to regular feeding until there is nothing left of their mind but an empty vessel to be discarded.
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[20:34] <+Silverlion> Cool.
[20:34] <+Silverlion> I'm rather fond of reimagining things..
[20:34] <+Gemini> which things
[20:34] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Gemini: Cthulhu-faced neural vampires.
[20:35] <+Gemini> fun
[20:35] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Legally I'm not technically allowed to call them "mind flayers"... ;)
[20:35] <+Gemini> oh?
[20:36] <+J_Arcana_Rising> MF, Umber Hulks, Owlbears, Beholders, Slaad, displacer beasts and a few others no one cares about are Product Identity and were not made OGL.
[20:36] <+J_Arcana_Rising> (Link:
[20:36] <+Gemini> Oh?
[20:36] <+Gemini> That stinks :(
[20:36] <+Gemini> Invisible Stalker?
[20:37] <+J_Arcana_Rising> So while I'll have some monsters inspired by those with my own spin, I can't include the actual creatures as written and named in D&D, sadly.
[20:37] <~Dan> Bulletes?
[20:38] <+Gemini> Bang.
[20:38] <+J_Arcana_Rising> bulletes are safe, actually.
[20:38] <+J_Arcana_Rising> I can indeed include them should I so desire. :D
[20:38] <~Dan> You should totally include those. :)
[20:38] <+Gemini> In what?
[20:38] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Landshark!
[20:39] <+Gemini> Oh, is this a Q&A?
[20:39] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Yes. x.x
[20:39] <~Dan> Now, we discussed this before, but for the benefit of the audience/readers, could you explain the status of non-human PCs?
[20:39] <+Gemini> sorry
[20:39] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Dan: There aren't.
[20:39] <+Gemini> No werewolves?
[20:39] <~Dan> Do the usual races not exist, or are they just not PC-worthy?
[20:40] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Basically, I didn't think it made sense with the backstory for there to be PC non-humans, as that would mean they would've had to exist during the absence of magic, or doing something like Shadowrun did, which I still think is a bit silly.
[20:41] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Dan: They exist, as otherworldly beings, but one of the things I want to do since they aren't PCs is try and imbue them again with a little bit of their old mythic place.
[20:41] <~Dan> I like that.
[20:42] <+J_Arcana_Rising> So elves and dwarves will once again be creatures of myth from the Asgardian plane or the realms of fae, rather than just "some humans with funny ears".
[20:42] * ~Dan nods
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[20:44] <~Dan> Are you using alignment?
[20:44] <+J_Arcana_Rising> God no. :P
[20:45] <+J_Arcana_Rising> I thought about including something like it, allegiances, which would be voluntary, but ultimately I've walked away from the idea is simply impractical.
[20:45] <+J_Arcana_Rising> There are however monsters and creatures who are by nature unholy or evil.
[20:45] <+J_Arcana_Rising> But there's no "lawful evil" or whatever unless you want to put it in there.
[20:46] <~Dan> So despite the lack of alignments, it's not a morally subjective setting?
[20:48] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Well, there is and there isn't. There are objectively evil or at least unholy creatures, and Clerics and Champions are more or less "holy", and recognized as such by the divine will or they wouldn't have their powers.
[20:48] <+J_Arcana_Rising> But at the same time, there's no "evil detector" stuff where mortals and even most supernatural things are concerned.
[20:49] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Detect Evil would spot demons, not Hitler.
[20:49] <~Dan> Ah, I see.
[20:49] <~Dan> How do you handle armor, and is there any mechanical reason for modern-day characters not to "armor up"?
[20:50] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Armor will work more or less as it did in H&H, so D&D style descending AC, basically.
[20:52] <+J_Arcana_Rising> I have debated some kind of piercing vs. slashing type split but I think it would just get too complicated, and I don't do complicated.
[20:53] <+Gemini> how do guns work
[20:53] <~Dan> But there's no reason for people not to wear armor?
[20:54] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Dan: In general, no, so long as they've the proficiency for it, at least as written now.
[20:54] <+J_Arcana_Rising> There's still some possibility I'll come up with a clever way to make up for it, in particular I'm considering either boosting the DEX bonus to AC, or adding a Defense skill of some kind.
[20:55] <+J_Arcana_Rising> But I also intend to be somewhat generous with the AC bonus for different armor types, so that you won't have to be necessarily feeling like you have to walk around in full-plate for it to do any good.
[20:57] * ~Dan nods
[20:58] <+J_Arcana_Rising> D20 Modern was actually pretty good about that, and I intend to take a page from that, at least when it comes to the AC numbers for different armor types.
[20:58] <~Dan> Seems like it might be wise to give some sort of armor penetration value to guns, making it generally smarter to dodge/hide than to stand and take it.
[20:59] <~Dan> (Of course, I generally prefer damage-reducing armor, but that's just me. ;) )
[20:59] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Definitely.
[21:00] <+J_Arcana_Rising> There will be some kind of cover bonus for sure.
[21:01] <+J_Arcana_Rising> H&H has a cover rule, as well as a rule for a full-defense move, so those will remain.
[21:01] <~Dan> Excellent.
[21:02] <~Dan> Well, it's 9:00 Central, but as usual, you're welcome to answer questions as long as you like, JA. Is there anything you'd like to mention that we haven't covered?
[21:03] <+J_Arcana_Rising> I think we've covered anything I can think of.
[21:03] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Anyone else?
[21:04] <~Dan> Oh.... How big is the bestiary?
[21:04] * +Sharpe-AFK parachutes in, landing without a scuff on his perfectly-pressed tuxedo.
[21:04] <+J_Arcana_Rising> I don't have a hard number yet, but I'm shooting for a pretty full compliment. Bigger than H&H for sure, and I'll be doing my best include most of the common D&D critters people know and love.
[21:04] <+Gemini> Can you play Batman Beyond with it?
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[21:05] <+J_Arcana_Rising> Gemini: Well, I suppose you could if you borrowed the powered armor from H&H.
[21:06] <~Dan> Thanks for the discussion, JA! The log will be posted shortly.

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