• The Infractions Forum is available for public view. Please note that if you have been suspended you will need to open a private/incognito browser window to view it.

[Interest/Discussion] Running the 4e D&D Setting with PbtA (Freebooters on the Frontier)

Atlictoatl

Powered by the Apocryphal
Validated User
I've been thinking a lot about running a heavily character-driven game using the 4e setting material and race/class concepts, but within a PbtA framework. Probably Freebooters on the Frontier 2e, for its oldschool feel and focus on exploration.

My first idea was to make it a paragon-tier planar campaign focused more on the Feywild, Shadowfell, and the Astral Sea (probably ignoring the existence of Sigil), though there's also something to be said for a heroic-tier campaign that is more wilderness exploration. Paragon-tier implies more of a region-saving plot, whereas Heroic-tier adventurers can stumble into things more easily. I'm currently trying to parse out whether it's possible to do the Heroic-tier adventuring within a planar campaign -- with Paragon-tier characters, since they need a certain power level to be planar adventurers.

I'd translate race and exotic class/paragon path stuff into free abilities within the Freebooters system that captured the flavor of the fluff. I've always been interested in translating 4e powers and abilities into day-in-the-life stuff, versus strictly encounter-utility powers. Like, if you're a teleporting eladrin with Winter Court powers, what can be done with that narratively, separate from the encounter mechanics?

It would be a narrative driven game. The whole point is to explore 4e setting conceits and character archetypes without featuring a series of complicated tactical battles. Does this kind of thing sound interesting to anyone? It's probably a ways off, as both of my current games need some love and attention from me, but if the concept intrigues I'll whittle away at it with more intentionality.

Stop! I can only play in so many of your games!
I am somewhat interested. For all my issues with 4e, it has some of the best fluff of any version of D&D, and I wouldn't mind using that. I'd have to refresh myself on the PbtA basics, since it's been a while since I played any PbtA games.
That sounds really cool! The Battle Moves in AW would be very interesting in a fantasy battle setting.

Also I know very little of the 4E fluff [...], but I can pick it up from Wikis.
I’ve actually been pondering a Planescape game (generally) or running the Dead Gods campaign.
My biggest gripe was do I use an osr hack or ad&d 2e or b/x...

Another thing that catches me is that I love pbta stuff, own most of the games that use the system, and have even incorporated custom moves into my Savage Worlds home games but I personally have never played in or full out mc’d a pbta game.

Color me interested but tentatively.
I am also interrested in anything D&D and love the 4e setting material BUT I don't know what the PtA (if I even got the acronym right) thing is...
But a story driven 4e game sounds pretty awesome.
Just think of Powered by the Apocalypse as a game engine designed for player-driven play, GrendelForx.

PbtA basics are pretty simple to get a grasp on. It's all player-facing; PCs do things. When those things trigger codified Moves, players roll dice. If those things don't trigger codified Moves, it's just roleplayed based on either what makes sense in the scene or what the narrative goal is. What you'll want to examine for any specific PbtA game is what the codified Moves are, and also what the playbooks do, as those two things will illuminate the style of the specific PbtA game.

Freebooters is a little weird, as PbtA games go, because it emulates oldschool play. It strongly favors random generation for everything. It's exploration-focused. It's low-HP compared to the damage you can take, so it's best to avoid combat or to have Followers who can take some of the brunt of that. You can peruse it here; it's in playtest, so is free to use in its mostly-complete state.

I'm toying with the idea of rolling in Apocalypse World 2e style combat. As-is, Freebooters is pure basic hack-and-slash and HP depletion until death or morale kicks in. AW 2e combat is more goal-oriented: seizing control of things, with repercussions.
 

Atlictoatl

Powered by the Apocryphal
Validated User
All of the above was introduced in the Games You'd Like to Play meta-thread. There's sufficient tentative interest that I'm starting this discussion thread to discuss the topic and so have quoted folks above who expressed some interest.

There's some interest here in 4e generally, in playing a planar game, in wilderness exploration, and in using PbtA with more robust combat rules to run a D&D-like game. I will emphasize here that using Freebooters on the Frontiers 2e most closely emulates oldschool D&D, with a focus on exploration, random everything, and deadly combat. I tend more towards social and political games, and while I can enjoy D&D-type combat, in this game I'm more interested in conflict (of any sort) happening for a reason and having specific goals for the living, breathing combatants on either side, as opposed to knock-down slugfests that exist for encounter balance.

If this game gets off the ground, it probably won't be for another month.

The point of this thread at this time is to capture interest and to discuss what kind of game most appeals, should you be able to play when it launches.

Options:
  • a game centered in the Feywild, that might involve travel to the Shadowfell, the mundane plane, and/or the Astral Plane
  • a game centered on planar travel, either through planar magic or a Spelljammer
  • a wilderness-exploration game, probably more centered on the mundane plane
  • some other suggestion
I have a Google spreadsheet of 4e classes, Paragon Paths, and playable races. In the last tab, I pulled out those races that seemed most germane to a planar campaign.

Freebooters on the Frontier 2e (free playtest version)

A core element that appeals to me about this concept is playing 4e more narratively, including some day-in-the-life stuff. What is life like for a Dragonborn scion of ancient Akhosia, an Oathsworn Avenger of Erathis, who has pledged a fall and winter in service to the city of Astrazalian's fight against the fomorians? Or a Bladeling Ravager whose ill-fortune has stranded them on the island-city a few days before it leaves the mortal plane? Or an Eladrin Wizard of the Spiral Tower and a social climber within the Winter Court, who has been assigned to watching over foreigners to the city?

(or a Dwarven Storm Warden and their companion, a Shifter Invoker, who are exploring the wilderness of the Ogrefist Hills for the Lord of Fallcrest)

What kinds of things about 4e appeal to you? What appeals about your preference for either a planar or wilderness exploration game?
 
Last edited:

DannyK

One Shot Man
Validated User
This all sounds amazing and I’m not going to demand anything, but — I think the coolest thing about the 4E cosmology is that the Underdark goes everywhere if you’re tough enough to travel it, like the crawlspace under reality. And yet I’ve never had a chance to mess around in the Underdark.

The wilderness adventure sounds great too.
Edit: I meant Underdark but wrote Shadowfell originally, I like both.
 
Last edited:

Talisman

The Man of Talis
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I would honestly be interested in any of the above. I love fey stuff in general, so the Feywild appeals to me, and DannyK DannyK 's point on the Shadowfell is cool as well - I quite liked Birthright's Shadow World, and 4e's Shadowfell is essentially the same thing.

One thing to consider is how 4e's overwhelming wealth of possible character options and class/race/paragon path/feat/power combinations would interact with PbtA's more modest scope. It might be worth allowing each PC to have one custom ability, to avoid having to work out rules for dozens of combos and options that will never be used.
 

Atlictoatl

Powered by the Apocryphal
Validated User
One thing to consider is how 4e's overwhelming wealth of possible character options and class/race/paragon path/feat/power combinations would interact with PbtA's more modest scope. It might be worth allowing each PC to have one custom ability, to avoid having to work out rules for dozens of combos and options that will never be used.
Here are four sample PCs that I built as L7 Freebooters characters, modeling them off of L14 Paragon 4e characters. Attributes were generated with 4d6, keep highest 3. HP are generated by re-rolling every level and keeping the highest roll (+1 for a new level, if HP don't otherwise increase between, say, L2 and L3). You'll note HP is quite low compared to 4e, which is appropriate for the grittier Freebooters. I've also given these characters more Advanced Moves based on level than is the norm for Freebooters, which fits with my 'heroic' conception of the characters.

For the non-human races, my conversion tried to capture the spirit/flavor, and defaulted to three "abilities" related to race (though only one was usually a "power") and one ability related to the Paragon Path (I'd have likely included more for the PP if they were based on something > L14). The human got fewer racial abilities (though they get one in Freebooters) and more Paragon Path abilities. Three boons might be a bit much for a Heroic-tier game, but I think you'll see that (apart from the Bladeling), they're not too egregious. Freebooters generally only gives one ability for race, though, and they're pretty innocuous. Emulating 4e races would be a definite power-up.

I imagine that doing this for actual PCs would involve more collaboration with the player, so it's not just my conceptualization of the core spirit that gets expressed, but an amalgam of mine and the player's.

There's also a limitation in that Freebooters only has four classes, as it emulates oldschool play: Fighter, Cleric, Magic-User, and Thief. I think it's possible to fluff some things (Psions, Sorcerers, and Warlocks can be emulated with a Magic-User), but it gets harder to do some things like Avengers, Ardents, Barbarians, etc. So we'd have to explore.

Freebooters also does freeform spells. I quite like the spellcasting system, but my sample Eladrin Wizard of the Spell Tower built in 4e felt especially Eladrin with a broad array of cold-based spells, and the Freebooter's version doesn't manage that at all. Something to be discussed with the player, who might prefer the freeform Freebooters model, or the more thematic cohesion that 4e could give.

I imagine that I'd treat Paragon Paths like a Fate Aspect or 13th Age Background, allowing them to open up narrative stuff and possibly mechanical advantages beyond what I've listed. The same could be true of both race and Heroic class. I'm not opposed to Backgrounds, either, though I'd probably treat them more as Aspects or 13th Age Backgrounds than as 4e Themes.

Bladeling Ravager
Spoiler: Show
Bladeling Ravager
Fighter: solve a problem with violence = XP
Chaotic: disrupt a prevailing order = XP
Virtue: cautious | Vices: selfish, stubborn = XP
appearance: clear-eyed, missing teeth

STR 16 CON 17 DEX 13 INT 12 WIS 14 CHA 11 LUCK 12
HP: 32

Fighter
Mettle: 8
Favored Weapon x3
Revel in Battle
Bend Bars, Lift Gates
No Guts, No Glory
Master Weapon: can spend 2 mettle for +2 on moves with mastered weapon
Second Skin: +1 armor, no awkward tag for heavy armor
Vengeful: burn WIS 1 to take +1 ongoing vs a source of physical or emotional harm
Leader: bark commands in the heat of battle

Bladeling
+1 to Intimidation and planar knowledge checks
Razor Storm: once per encounter, make a close burst attack vs every creature using DEX, +2 attack, 1d4 damage, can trigger Revel in Battle
Rending Spines: once/day, enter stance that slows you, -2 to AC, any adjacent creature that hits/misses you with a melee attack takes 4 damage

Ravager
Whenever you drop an enemy to 0 HP, you gain +2 to hit on your next attack


Eladrin Wizard of the Spiral Tower
Spoiler: Show
Eladrin Wizard of the Spiral Tower
Magic-User: solve a problem with magic = XP
Evil: inflict harm on another for personal gain = XP
Vices: ruthless, manipulative, inflexible = XP
appearance: mismatched eyes, goatee

STR 9 CON 13 DEX 13 INT 15 WIS 11 CHA 13 LUCK 11
HP: 16

Magic-User
Power: 8
Spellcaster
Study Spellbook
Inscribe
Cast Spell
Antiquarian: spend a week of downtime researching a mysterious object
Formulate Spell: craft spells
Sorcerer: burn 1 CON to improvise a spell at -1 to cast
Scholar: +1 from books

Eladrin
+1 on Knowledge moves
Advantage vs Charms
Fey Step: once/encounter, may teleport

Wizard of the Spiral Tower
Fey sword: +1 Power when magic channeled through it
Radiant censure: magical attacks against you and attacks that target your pysche automatically confer 3 damage to the attacker

Spells
Munnoce's Oozing Shadow
Untiring Fist
Instant Whisper
Truth Disturbance
Wall of Stupefying Will
X's Omnipotent Aura
X's Evil Health
X's Hand of Despair


Human Astral Savant of Erathis
Spoiler: Show
Human Astral Savant of Erathis
Cleric: fulfill the tenets of your deity = XP
Neutral: correct an imbalance = XP
Virtue: friendly | Vice: obsessive = XP
appearance: deep voice, stubble

STR 12 CON 16 DEX 11 INT 13 WIS 13 CHA 16 LUCK 10
HP: 32

Cleric
Favor: 9
Disciple of Erathis: Community and Conquest domains, Tenet: "Defend the light of civilization against the encroaching darkness"
Pray
Convert
Lay on Hands
Invoke Deity
Avatar: declare goal in name of deity and embody divine will in action
Inspire: stand fast before a clear threat in name of deity
Pray for Guidance: ask deity a question
Defender of the Faith: gain armor when facing a threat

Human
+1 to negotiation checks
Freebooters: when you wrap up, mark 1 additional XP

Astral Savant
+1 to planar knowledge checks
considered an astral citizen
Swim the Astral Sea: once/day, you and allies can shift equal to speed, ignoring terrain and any restraining effects
Astral Terrain: once/day, create an astral field that heals allies and damages foes


Gnome Master Infiltrator
Spoiler: Show
Gnome Master Infiltrator
Thief: solve a problem with stealth or trickery = XP
Good: help those in need at your own expense = XP
Virtues: responsible, charitable, friendly = XP
appearance: tattoos, dark skin, shifty eyes

STR 8 CON 12 DEX 15 INT 12 WIS 14 CHA 10 LUCK 15
HP: 20

Thief
Cunning: 7
Tricks of the Trade: Stealth, Locks, Acrobatics, Traps
Hide in Shadows
Move Silently
Pick Locks & Disarm Traps
Purloin
Backstab
Lucky Dog: when you Level Up, heal 1d6 Luck instead of 1
Sense Danger: spend 1 Cunning to determine if any threat is imminent
Slip Free: take action to release self from bonds
Scale Sheer Surface: climb something a person shouldn't be able to climb

Gnome
+1 to stealth checks
Advantage vs illusions
Fade Away: once/encounter, when you take damage, may become invisible until you attack or until the end of your next turn

Master Infiltrator
Impossible to Catch: once/encounter, become invisible until the start of your next turn
 
Last edited:

GrendelForx

Registered User
Validated User
I'[m going to take a deeper look at this tomorrow but I'm familiar with Apocalypse/Dungeon world a bit I just didn't know the acronym :D
I wold put in a vote for planer travel aboard a spelljammer for a general exploration game across the planes...I'd also like to play one of the races who reincarnate a lot and have golden skin whose name escap....oh wait, the Deva :)
But I'm just as open to a tiefling swashbuckler type for an exploration game or an Eladrin druid in a fey wilds game...
In short, I'm pretty open...the lighter the rules the mor einterrested I would be I'm far more for the story of these settings :)
Edit : Or a half Ifrit if you want to allow some customization ;)
 

Dromio

Registered User
Validated User
This sounds like a TON of fun to me! A great opportunity to play at higher levels and in wider spaces. I've got some familiarity with both parts of the proposal: 4E and PbtA (BitD and MotW). I appreciate more of an exploration angle; going places that we've all speculated about, but rarely, if ever, gotten to visit in games. I'd be more tempted by planar exploration than wilderness exploration.

EDIT: Maybe a Warforged Lifeseeker Warden? I like the idea of a warden, someone who isn't aggressive but immensely capable. I found the Lifeseeker Paragon Path on the 4E wiki and liked the sound of it, but it's not on your spreadsheet. It's a Warforged racial Path.
 
Last edited:

Atlictoatl

Powered by the Apocryphal
Validated User
One thing to consider is how 4e's overwhelming wealth of possible character options and class/race/paragon path/feat/power combinations would interact with PbtA's more modest scope. It might be worth allowing each PC to have one custom ability, to avoid having to work out rules for dozens of combos and options that will never be used.
Some other notes about my practice/sample conversions:

I allowed these characters to arrange their rolled attributes however they wanted. This may have been a function of their being Paragon-tier; I'll have to think about whether I'd do that for Heroic-tier characters, or stick more to assigned rolls. They received the '+1 in two Attributes' chargen boon that Freebooters allows PCs, assigned per 4e racial characteristics. Freebooters has an Attribute advancement system based on failed Moves that seems to do a good job of giving a sense of improvement, so imperfect Attributes is something that can be overcome through play. I generally award some freebies there at chargen, though I certainly couldn't emulate a whole 14 levels of play.

As it stands now, these samples emphasize race more than they do Paragon Path. We could reverse that, if PP felt more important than race. I was surprised to discover that PPs felt harder to convert than race. It could be that they're less known/familiar to me in 'feel' than race, but I think it's more that PPs, as written, are actually very mechanical and not very fluffy. While races are also mechanical in 4e, those mechanics are very much in service to distinguishing the races from each other. PPs, when I looked closely at them in this manner, are a lot more flat. Ultimately, I think they'll lend themselves best to being an Aspect or a 13th Age 'unique thing' or Background; something with narrative oomph, more than a lot of mechanics.

Something to discuss, perhaps, both in the abstract and more concretely as chargen is entered.

This all sounds amazing and I’m not going to demand anything, but — I think the coolest thing about the 4E cosmology is that the Underdark goes everywhere if you’re tough enough to travel it, like the crawlspace under reality. And yet I’ve never had a chance to mess around in the Underdark.

The wilderness adventure sounds great too.
Edit: I meant Underdark but wrote Shadowfell originally, I like both.
I'm percolating on the idea of an all-expansive Underdark and how to employ that. Where else that sort of thing might apply, how the Underdark might be involved.

FWIW, my tendency for this game is to not head in the direction of the Underdark being a central character. If I imagine a long-lived game, the things I want to delight in discovering/exploring/describing/fleshing out are all of the fantastical spaces of the planes or enticing wilderlands, not endless claustrophobia and darkness. There's certainly a lot of wonder and beauty available for description in the Underdark, and it could be a fun place to visit, but I don't want to be caught describing Underdark vistas for twelve months.

If we wanted a heavily thematic campaign, we could consider a team of Underdark-dwellers developing a Spelljammer or plane-hopping in other ways, or out exploring the wilderness of the surface world. I'm not yet sold on the idea, but heavily thematic group composition is a possibility.

I quite liked Birthright's Shadow World
Hrm. I'll have to check that out. What did/do you like about it?

Edit : Or a half Ifrit if you want to allow some customization
While it's an entirely arbitrary demarcation, I'm more inclined towards focusing on the existing 4e PC races than converting new races over. That said, genasi are a PC race, and it's entirely within the bounds of the planar campaign to play a fire genasi from the City of Brass or another area within the Elemental Chaos.

This sounds like a TON of fun to me! A great opportunity to play at higher levels and in wider spaces. I've got some familiarity with both parts of the proposal: 4E and PbtA (BitD and MotW). I appreciate more of an exploration angle; going places that we've all speculated about, but rarely, if ever, gotten to visit in games. I'd be more tempted by planar exploration than wilderness exploration.

EDIT: Maybe a Warforged Lifeseeker Warden? I like the idea of a warden, someone who isn't aggressive but immensely capable. I found the Lifeseeker Paragon Path on the 4E wiki and liked the sound of it, but it's not on your spreadsheet. It's a Warforged racial Path.
Welcome, Dromio! I appreciate your enthusiastic interest.

I see the PP on the wiki. Are you able to locate a book- or magazine-based source for it? I'm uncertain yet whether I want to draw a line at published material vs homebrewed creations. It may not matter, and would probably be adjudicated on a case-by-case basis.

We can discuss it more within chargen, but my initial response to the PP is that I'm not quite sure how to grab on to it. It's fairly abstract, and mechanically very specific (which may not translate well). As an Aspect or Unique Thing, it's hard for me to pigeonhole. "Oh, yeah, a Warforged Lifeseeker does these sorts of things, and has these sorts of relationships, and has these sorts of conflicts." It almost seems like an internal state of seeking or emotionality that could live as much in the roleplayed state as having a tangible, codified external expression (like a Wizard of the Spiral Tower or an Emerald Guardian). In other words, you might be able to simply roleplay a Warforged who is highly attuned with its living aspect, in addition to another sort of PP.

All that said, I'm open to exploring it with you in chargen. If it has tangibility for you that I'm missing in my glance at it, there's something that can be worked with. I agree that a Warforged Warden who is highly attuned to what it means to be alive is a very interesting character concept; the question I'm posing is more mechanical in nature.
 

Atlictoatl

Powered by the Apocryphal
Validated User
Some other general notes: when I imagine this game, I'm less interested in some over-arching scenario that I've devised than in something more sandboxy. While it could be tempting to put the characters in the aforementioned city of Astrazalian not long before it returns to the Feywild, I think I'm more interested in something completely open-ended than something that is constrained by a specific stage or scenario.

What that means, though, is that we as a group would be much more heavily reliant on the characters to define the elements of the gameworld that rise to the spotlight. If I'm not enforcing a vibrant starting scenario already rife with possibility, then I'm probably going to be asking the players to flesh out more of their character's background than I normally would. This would likely involve a high number of questions, in the PbtA style. I'd be looking to characters to define the interesting connections, rivalries, enmities, and opportunities in the gameworld that we could then be in reaction to or pursuit of. Both in chargen and as we play to find the game.

I've been thinking that, since this would be Freebooters, a larger PC group could be accommodated. That might in turn be diminished somewhat if we go this route of a highly background-driven campaign, as it's harder to juggle all of that and give spotlight time with 6-7 PCs than with 3-4.

So, there's competing concerns. We could easily play with 6-7 PCs in a more focused game scenario. It might also be possible to play with that many characters in a more background-driven game, if everyone's cool with individual material being more on the backburner than it would be in a more intimate game.
 

Dromio

Registered User
Validated User
Welcome, Dromio! I appreciate your enthusiastic interest.

I see the PP on the wiki. Are you able to locate a book- or magazine-based source for it? I'm uncertain yet whether I want to draw a line at published material vs homebrewed creations. It may not matter, and would probably be adjudicated on a case-by-case basis.

We can discuss it more within chargen, but my initial response to the PP is that I'm not quite sure how to grab on to it. It's fairly abstract, and mechanically very specific (which may not translate well). As an Aspect or Unique Thing, it's hard for me to pigeonhole. "Oh, yeah, a Warforged Lifeseeker does these sorts of things, and has these sorts of relationships, and has these sorts of conflicts." It almost seems like an internal state of seeking or emotionality that could live as much in the roleplayed state as having a tangible, codified external expression (like a Wizard of the Spiral Tower or an Emerald Guardian). In other words, you might be able to simply roleplay a Warforged who is highly attuned with its living aspect, in addition to another sort of PP.

All that said, I'm open to exploring it with you in chargen. If it has tangibility for you that I'm missing in my glance at it, there's something that can be worked with. I agree that a Warforged Warden who is highly attuned to what it means to be alive is a very interesting character concept; the question I'm posing is more mechanical in nature.
No worries here, that was just an initial look. The wiki says that Lifeseeker is from Dragon 364. I'm half tempted to see if I have that one just for fun, it's been a LONG time since I paged through some of those old Dragons/Dungeons. What you're saying makes very good sense, it could certainly be crunching something more effectively handled as fluff.
 
Top Bottom