This month, we've got an overhaul of backgrounds, a bunch of new general talents, and some art! Let's go into more detail:

Backgrounds

So, the original batch of backgrounds were based along certain themes, the sorts of lives a character might live such as farmer, wizard's apprentice etc. There were adventuring backgrounds, and mundane ones that offered far less, and would only really be taken for reasons of roleplaying. But as someone pointed out to me, roleplaying shouldn't just be about taking big penalties. 

I did a pass on backgrounds last year, improving the weaker ones somewhat but it wasn't enough. Recently, a new player in one of my local groups took a closer look at them and noticed some glaring imbalances. Some backgrounds you'd never take, and others you'd be crazy *not* to take. So I decided to sit down and go over it more thoroughly. My process was simple enough - assign a value for each of a background's attributes and compare them all. Resistance skills and Greater Magic skills received 3 points as they are highly desireable. Combat skills and Spirit Points received 2, and so forth. I even factored in starting money, at a rate of +1 for every 200 silver pieces. 

After completing these (actually during the middle of the process) I could see the problems, but the solutions were relatively easy. It took me a whole day to sort it out, but once done, things were looking much much better.

Arcane Blade and Monastery Orphan were head and shoulders above the others, while Page and Brothel Orphan were sorely lacking. For the purposes of rebalancing, I decided that Wizard's Apprentice would be the baseline at 13 points, so I adjusted the attributes of each background to get to 12 or 13 points. Typically, backgrounds without combat or magic skills are more likely to have extra Resist skills, more money, and more background events. 

This process gave me an opportunity to look closer at the Greater Magic backgrounds too. There are now two types for most of the greater magic types (except for Alchemy and Divine magic). One type gives you a dedicated spellcaster with little starting money, the Resolve resistance skill, and a +2 Spirit Point bonus. The other kind has the same Greater Magic skill, but has more of a combative focus, with either Endurance or Evade instead of Resolve, more starting money, and instead of the prized +2 Spirit Points, another ability (usually the ability to cast spells in light armour).

Talents

There's plenty of combat and magic talents to go around, but the number of general talents was a bit lacking and has been for a while. After a brainstorming session, there are now plenty more to choose from and the requirements for some of the others have been lowered. 

Additionally, after thinking a few mechanics through, I move the 'Grit' manoeuvre over to a talent, as you can't actually activate it when below 1 Hit Point and therefore it's not tremendously useful. Now it's a passive, 'always on' ability that lets you stay conscious more easily with a Serious Wound. Part of this change too was noting that taking a serious wound almost always results in going unconscious for a few rounds, so this way its easier for tougher characters to stay in the fight.

Another change was in the ability to cripple a target's limbs without killing them first. There were three manoeuvres to accomplish this with either melee, martial arts or pistol weapons, but I thought of a better, less clunky way. Those manoeuvres have been removed and replaced by one talent, Critical Blow, which lets any physical combat skill cripple a limb (or the head) on a critical hit to a creature that can't defend itself. This prevents it happening too often, but when it hits, it'll really slow them down. This is yet another way of improving the balance between combat and magic characters.

Art!

Finally, this month was supposed to be dedicated to adding art to the codex, but all that other development stuff happened! I still managed to get three pieces done, with noticable improvements in my technique each time. My skill is still lacking when it comes to getting the lighting effects right, but that'll come with time. I imagine I'll redo these at some point in the future, but for now, I think they're quite adequate :) Just two more to go to have the standard races complete, and then I'll move on to the more exotic races. I've also just ordered some poseable models to help me get the postures right, and it should make a big difference in quality.

What's next?

More art! Additionally, I want to add some options for the druid, in the same manner as sorcery bloodlines or divine devotions. There's a druid in one of my groups who hasn't bothered with an animal companion and he's getting by just fine, so I'll add some devotions for other things:

* One for a shapeshifting focused druid with some appropriate talents.

* A devotion for a beastmaster to enhance your animal companion(s).

* A weather and 'natural disaster' focused druid.

* A healer, focused on life and regeneration.

So that'll be next month, and I'm sure there will be a few more additions along the way (there always is!)

 

v2.22 Codex Premium Edition Changelog (See below for the Basic Edition notes)

New!

* Added art for the Acadian Elves, Dwarves & Forest elves.

* Added 'Toughness' Endurance manoeuvre.

* The 'Grit' manoeuvre is now a talent (it works better as a passive ability).

* Added the 'Cat Burgler' background.

* Added 'Deep Pockets', 'Strong Back', 'Haggler', 'Design Sense', 'Commander', 'Blind Sense', 'Wingman', 'Improvised Medicine', 'Miracle Worker', 'Subtle Threat', 'Grain of Truth', 'Quick Draw' and 'Helpful' general talents.

* Added 'Warning Shout' Leadership manoevure.

* Added 'Advantage' combat talent.

* Added 'Critical Blow' combat talent, which replaces 'Cunning Blow', 'Selective Aim' and 'Called Shot' manoeuvres.

* Added 'Critical Power' spellcasting talent.

* Added 'Teleportation Ward' for wizardry, divine and shamanic magic.

 

Modifications:

* 'Righteous Fury', 'Berserker' and 'Bloodlust' now count as Combat Talents and require only 12+ strength to acquire.

* All talents with an Attribute requirements of "13+" now require only 12+.

* 'Tactical Combo' talent now only requires 70% in a combat skill.

* The Acrobatics skill can now be used to avoid movement penalties from difficult terrain, reduce damage from falling and climb at double the normal rate (using parkour!)

* Removed the 'Nimble' talent, the effects of which have been more effectively integrated into Acrobatics.

* 'Rune Power' & 'Potent Artifice' talents now require 70% skill but give +1 damage, +5m range and -10% to spell resists from scrolls or relics.

* Improved the 'Adrenaline Surge' Endurance manoeuvre.

* The 'Leap' manoevure also makes you immune to opportunity attacks.

* The 'Backflip' manoevure no longer limits you to half speed.

* Revised the 'Switch Body' spell with more detail.

* Revised and simplified the 'Imbue Divinity' divine spell which now also works with the Permanency talent.

* Gems are now required to make a spell permanent, of the same value as before.

* Escardi Hit Points are now equal to their STR Attribute.

* Escardi and similar sized creatures only pay 50% more for their armour instead of doubling the cost.

* Clarified that armour points gained from Auric or Natural armour doesn't add up from separate body locations - the value bestowed simply counts at each armour location if an effect targets a specific location.

* Clarified that Spirit Points gained through talents stack with each other.

* Gems used with the 'Store Spirit' talent are no longer destroyed if completely drained.

* Reduced the movement penalty on Plate Greaves from -2 to -1.

* Open Range and Close Range actions now use your Movement instead (and re-wrote the "open and close range" section for greater clarity).

* Revised 'Closing Strike' manoeuvre.

* The 'Grapple Expert' talent now applies to any restrained or pinned target.

* The 'Fire & Steel' talent now lets you make extra melee attacks if you can make more than 1 pistol attack each round.

* Lowered the INT requirement for increasing spell power.

* Stipulated that the 'Two Weapons' martial art's talent lets you make an off-hand attack with small weapons only (i.e. no double katanas).

* Longswords and katanas no longer switch to a smaller die when used single-handed - the Damage Modifier bonus for wielding a weapon 2-handed is sufficient.

* Weapons Expertise martial art's talent now requires 'Martial Weapons' as one of it requirements.

* Reduced the damage bonus gained from increasing the Spell Power on lightning spells (uniformly +2 now). This is due to metal armour having more importance in the system with fighters, and lightning simply ignoring metal AP. 

* Lightning spells no longer deal half damage on a successful resist, it's either they hit or they don't.

* Removed the 'Carrying Equipment' system of straps, belts etc. With the new lower limit on encumbrance, this doesn't appear to be needed anymore. The items themselves remain under 'clothing' but the character sheet doesn't list individual locations anymore.

* 'Devastating bomb' now grants regular damage instead of an increase in critical damage.

* 'Shock bomb' no longer deals half regular damage, but instead of boosting damage with spell power, you increase the area of effect.

* Baseline bomb damage has been reduced by 2 points.

* 'Skill Expertise' talent only requires 70% skill to take.

* Expanded the list of player contacts from 10 to 12.

* 'Spirited Performance' charm spell only affects one target instead of an area of effect.

* 'Petrify' wizard spell now allows an endurance check every round to break free.

* Alchemy spells that previously had unopposed Resistance checks have now become opposed checks.

* Removed 'Alchemical Mastery' talent as it's no longer relevant.

 

Backgrounds (highlights - too many changes to list)

* All backgrounds have been evaluated and rebalanced accordingly. High-powered backgrounds have been reduced somewhat, and the low-end backgrounds (lots of those) have been vastly improved. I also actually looked up what a medieval page did, so that background has been significantly revamped. 

* Resistance skills have been highlighted red on the backgrounds list.

* Primary Greater Magic backgrounds get +2 Spirit Points and the Resolve skill, but there are secondary backgrounds with Greater Magic that have a different bonus and a different Resistance skill (less spirit, less focus on casting, more on combat).

* 'Arcane Blade' is now only available for Acadian Elves.

* 'Ranger' now gains the Druidry skill.

* 'Rake' now gains the Charms skill.

 

v1.52 Codex Basic Edition changelog

New!

* Added art for the Acadian Elves, Dwarves & Forest elves.

* The 'Grit' manoeuvre is now a talent (it works better as a passive ability).

* Added the 'Cat Burgler' background.

* All talents with an Attribute requirements of "13+" now require only 12+.

* The Acrobatics skill can now be used to avoid movement penalties from difficult terrain, reduce damage from falling and climb at double the normal rate (using parkour!)

* Removed the 'Nimble' talent, the effects of which have been more effectively integrated into Acrobatics.

* 'Rune Power' talent now requires 70% skill but give +1 damage, +5m range and -10% to spell resists from scrolls or relics.

* Improved the 'Adrenaline Surge' Endurance manoeuvre.

* The 'Leap' manoevure also makes you immune to opportunity attacks.

* The 'Backflip' manoevure no longer limits you to half speed.

* Revised the 'Switch Body' spell with more detail.

* Revised and simplified the 'Imbue Divinity' divine spell, which no longer makes the enchantment permanent on its own.

* Clarified that armour points gained from Auric or Natural armour doesn't add up from separate body locations - the value bestowed simply counts at each armour location if an effect targets a specific location.

* Reduced the movement penalty on Plate Greaves from -2 to -1.

* Lowered the INT requirement for increasing Spell Power.

* Stipulated that the 'Two Weapons' martial art's talent lets you make an off-hand attack with small weapons only (i.e. no double katanas).

* Longswords and katanas no longer switch to a smaller die when used single-handed - the Damage Modifier bonus for wielding a weapon 2-handed is sufficient.

* Reduced the damage bonus gained from increasing the Spell Power on lightning spells (uniformly +2 now). This is due to metal armour having more importance in the system with fighters, and lightning simply ignoring metal AP.

* Removed the 'Carrying Equipment' system of straps, belts etc. With the new lower limit on encumbrance, this doesn't appear to be needed anymore. The items themselves remain under 'clothing' but the character sheet doesn't list individual locations anymore.

* 'Skill Expertise' talent only requires 70% skill to take.

* Lightning spells no longer deal half damage on a successful resist, it's either they hit or they don't.

 

Backgrounds (highlights - too many changes to list)

* All backgrounds have been evaluated and rebalanced accordingly. High-powered backgrounds have been reduced somewhat, and the low-end backgrounds (lots of those) have been vastly improved. I also actually looked up what a medieval page did, so that background has been significantly revamped. 

* Resistance skills have been highlighted red on the backgrounds list.

* Primary Greater Magic backgrounds get +2 Spirit Points and the Resolve skill, but there are secondary backgrounds with Greater Magic that have a different bonus and a different Resistance skill (less spirit, less focus on casting).

* 'Arcane Blade' is now only available for Acadian Elves.

* 'Ranger' gains the Druidry skill, but that isn't part of the basic edition so the background was removed.