In a post yesterday, I made a comment that I was “re-writing descriptions and stats for monsters, spells, items, etc”. I’ve made similar comments before but today I realized that I had never talked about just what it was that I was doing.

As you know, I run a very heavily house-ruled game. These house rules often require that certain magical items, spells, monster, etc be modified to account for changes in the rules. The biggest change, and probably the most common in other games, is the replacement of the Vancian magic system with a spell point system. Vancian magic requires casters to memorize spells each day that are forgotten when cast. There are magic items that allow the wizard to remember a spell that they had already cast or that allow them to memorize additional spells. In a magic system where spells are not forgotten when cast, these items serve no purpose. But I hate to simply remove such an item from the game, especially if it has a cool name such as a Ring of Wizardry. Instead, I prefer to alter them so they serve a similar purpose under the new system. In the case of a Ring of Wizardry, I redesigned it to increase spell energy.

Hereafter is a specific example of what I am doing. This item is from first edition and was removed in later editions so newer players may not have seen it before. I like the item but it isn’t relevant to my rules system. Also, it has a number of other aspects that I prefer to remove. Lastly, it’s painful to read. Here is the original text:

Book of Exalted Deeds

This holy book is sacred to clerics of good alignment. Reading the work will require 1 week, but upon completion the good cleric will gain 1 point of wisdom and experience points sufficient to place him or her exactly halfway into the next level of experience. Clerics neither good nor evil will lose 20,000-80,000 experience points from perusal of the work (a negative x.p. total is possible, requiring restoration but not lowering level below 1st). Evil clerics will lose 1 full experience level, dropping them to the lowest possible number of experience possible to hold the level; they will furthermore have to atone by magical means or by offering up 50% of everything they gain for 2-5 adventures, losing the appropriate number of experience points as well, or gain no further experience. Fighters who handle or read the book will not be affected, although a paladin will feel it to be good. Magic-users who read it will suffer the loss of 1 point of intelligence unless they save versus magic; and if they do save they will lose from 2,000-20,000 experience points. A thief who handles or reads the work will sustain 5-30 hit points of damage and must save versus magic or lose 1 point of dexterity and have a 10%-60% chance of giving up his or her profession to become a good cleric if wisdom is 15 or higher. Assassins handling or reading the book of exalted deeds will take 5-40 hit points of damage and must save versus magic or commit suicide. Monks are not harmed by the work, nor can they understand it. Bards are treated as neutral clerics, experience point loss being from bard experience only. Note that except as indicated above, this writing cannot be distinguished by cover or scansion from any other magic book , libram, tome, etc. It must be perused. (This applies also to other magical writings detailed hereafter.) Once perused, the book vanishes, never to be seen again, nor can the same player character ever benefit from perusing the like a second time.

The main idea here is that the item is beneficial to good clerics. In addition, there is a penalty if used by non-good clerics. But then it goes into great detail regarding other penalties for other classes. I don’t mind a penalty for evil clerics but I think it’s unnecessary to go beyond that.

However, my game doesn’t use alignment. At least not for characters. Deities are aligned, as are other creatures native to the same planes. But alignment for characters was abolished. That’s easy enough to fix though. Just alter the text to refer to clerics of good, neutral, and evil deities.

There are actually a number of other little changes I wanted to make so let me show you what I did and then go over them.

Book of Exalted Deeds

Reading this text will require one entire week of uninterrupted study. Interruption requires that study begin anew. Upon completion, the cleric is affected as follows:

  • A cleric who follows a deity of good alignment will gain one point of wisdom and one level of experience (gaining experience points equal to the experience point range of the current level). This level must be trained as a cleric.
  • A cleric who follows a deity of evil alignment will lose one point of wisdom and one level of experience (losing enough experience points to take her to the beginning of that level). Experience points may not be reduced below 0 in this way so a 1st level cleric remains 1st level.
  • Clerics of gods who are neither good nor evil are unaffected.

Once used, the book disappears in a puff of white smoke.

As you can see, I changed a great many things:

  • Refer to clerics of aligned deities instead of aligned clerics.
  • Removed all penalties for everyone except clerics of good and evil gods.
  • Limit the experience point loss so that characters couldn’t be reduced to less than zero experience points.
  • Make experience gain equal to the current level’s experience range instead of enough to go to the middle of the next level. Otherwise, metagaming dictates that players should wait till just after they gain a level before reading the book in order to get the most out of it. This change makes the book just as useful at any point throughout a level.
  • Since my game allows all characters to train in all four classes, it was necessary to add the requirement that the bonus level be trained as a cleric in order to maintain the intent of the item.
  • Clarify and simplify the language in order to make it easier to read.
  • Remove the limitation that the character may never use another book of this sort. Characters cannot create items or buy items so access to another is strictly controlled making the limitation unnecessary in my campaign.

I think the revised edition is cleaner and reads better. It certainly makes more sense within my campaign now. Either way, that’s an example of the changes I am making.