I had time to sleep on some concepts in play testing, and here are some things I've mulled over:
Money and XP
I have to take money out of the XP progression. The XP chart is lean - it has to be. There are only 6 levels in the game. The default progression has to be slow. The difference between level 2 and level 3 is huge - it's comparable to two levels in B/X. It's comparable from moving from level 3 to level 5. The treasure charts are, by design (and necessity) relatively random. You can find a lot of gold in one lair, and nothing in the next three. That's by design. The problem is the opposite; if you get lucky for two or three lairs in a row, suddenly you are ramping up XP like crazy, and you can pick up a level very fast. Now, you've moved from level 3 (B/X numbers) to level 7 in a handful of encounters. It's a potential campaign killer. If you can kill three dragons, you deserve that XP. But if you just happen to get really lucky when rolling their treasures, it shouldn't automatically end the game because you top out your character.
CON checks vs. Feats for Poison
I toyed with making poison saves a CON check vs. a Feat. I really like this, because it makes CON a little more important, and it feels more reasonable. But, then I realized why I made it Feats in the first place:
- All creatures have a Feat rating, but only player characters have attributes. What about when a goblin gets poisoned? You have to hand wave it. Hate that.
- This opens Pandora's box. Then, shouldn't avoiding a trap be a DEX check? And shouldn't some spells be WIS checks? Shouldn't some manipulation require an INT check? Ugh. Breaks the simplicity of the engine.
- The source material says no. Feats are a synthesis of the entire saving throw system from B/X. Poison was resolved as a saving throw, not as a CON check. Old school, yo.
Attributes Revisited (Again)
Thought a little bit more about attribute scores and modifiers. My original system has the progression at +1 modifier for every 2 attribute points, and the system I was tinkering with moved it to every 4 - what if we meet in the middle at every 3? It looks like this:
Rating (Modifier) - Descriptor
2-4 (-1) Poor
5-7 (-) Average
8-10 (+1) Above Average
11-13 (+2) Exceptional
14-16 (+3) Heroic
17-19 (+4) Epic
20-22 (+5) Titanic
23-25 (+6) Godly
There is a a lot to like here. It still keeps the numbers in check, but gives a little more gradation. It also moves 'average' down slightly, which I like. A 'typical' PC has 7s across the board - he or she is nearly above average in all things. You are likely to get a handful of +1 modifiers, and getting an 11 once in a while is not unlikely. Min/Max rules have to go, however. That's old school. You get what you get.
I like the crossover for monsters. An ogre has STR 16. Giants are 17 (hill), 18 (fire and frost), or 19 (storm). A titan starts at 20.
It keeps an important break point at 14 (that's the threshold for being able to attempt epic checks). You feel almost as good about your 8 as you would 13, so a fighter with STR 8 is not feeling like a total loser next to that Fighter with STR 13. He's still capable, and viable as a character. I also like that magical devices can have a +3 attribute modifier as their default - that guarantees you will bump to the same location in the next tier up. I like that it breaks the tiers into 3 parts (low epic, medium epic, high epic). And, this ultimately ports over to the supers game a little better. I like that the Hulk gets +6 to attack and damage, and not 'just' +4. The raw scores don't change in that game, just the modifiers. Captain America (STR 13) is getting +2 to hit and damage, Spider Man (STR 15) is getting +3, Iron Man (STR 18) is getting +4, the Thing (STR 20) is getting +5, and Hulk is at his +6. This keeps a progression in place that distinguishes the characters mechanically enough to feel different, but keeps it relatively old school as well.