Archive for August, 2009



Martial arts characters easily fit into the Striker and Defender roles for classes. The examples of the Bard and Warlord give some direction for leaders in the game (since I picture this as a game without much magical healing). There are some challenges filling the Controller role.

Controllers usually have powers that:

  • affect areas
  • have long range
  • force movement or cause movement impairing effects

All of this is possible with some of the kung fu styles that exist in the older version of Dragon In Ninth Heaven. The Master of the Holy Flame and Master of the Ghostly Form prestige classes and the Glorious Lotus kung fu style (only in the supplement) all have elements of this. Clearly there is more work required, and this would require a specialist kung fu style to go with it.

Bear with me while I take a detour…

In previous versions of Dragon In Ninth Heaven, a character could choose any kung fu style they wished, regardless of their class. The style granted a few attack powers and granted access to some feats. The basics of the class did not change, and were not influenced by the kung fu style chosen. This was a deliberate choice, as I wanted all kung fu styles to be available to any character.

With the way that D&D 4E works, granting exploits at various levels, I’m not sure that allowing this separation of class and kung fu style makes sense any longer.

After going through this thought process, I think I’ll go with a structure as follows:

  • Classes belong to a role (as usual)
  • Kung fu styles provide a distinctive flavour, and will be tied directly to a class
    • A style may be limited to a role, rather than a class. This would allow balancing of powers relative to the amount of damage that a role does, or the power types that a particular role has access to.
  • Each class will have access to at least one kung fu style, preferably more.

The specific classes which apply to each role will be the subject of a future post, but here’s a few rough ideas that I have at the moment. Kung fu styles and the classes are overlapping here because I’m not sure if I want to separate them yet:

  • Striker
    • mobile, skirmishing fighter who delivers high damage strikes to a single target
    • kicking based kung fu style which concentrates on multiple strikes and multiple opponents
    • kung fu style that is based on ranged, chi based attacks
    • kung fu style that inflicts damage over time using poisons or crippling strikes
  • Defender
    • power based kung fu style that is based on counterstrikes
    • martial artist who concentrates on throws and moving opponents across the battlefield
    • a hard kung fu style that focuses on being able to resist strikes
  • Leader
    • not sure yet, I need some more research here
  • Controller
    • kung fu style that is based on circular, ranged, chi based attacks, entangling and tripping opponents
    • A mystical style that damages the environment, causing damage and maiming opponents who enter those zones

Development order

The order that I want to work through this project is:

  • Roles and Classes overview
  • Working chi into the feat system – maybe putting something into the basics of the class system
  • Races
  • Class details, paragon paths
  • Feats
  • Epic destinies
  • Magic and magic using classes
  • Magic items
  • Skill updates (if required)

Most of this is rules material, because I have a pretty good idea of the basic setting for the game. Once I get a handle on the flow of the gameplay then I will work through setting down the details of the setting.


Game system references

Here’s a list of the resources that can be used to create a D&D 4E compatible game:

The significant difference between this version of the license that Wizards of the Coast have published and the previous d20 license is that almost no text may be reproduced from the D&D rules. The names of many terms may be referenced, but the descriptions cannot be duplicated. The only allowed way of detailing common terms is to refer to the location in the D&D Core rulebooks.

This is a bit of a pain, since a game written using this license cannot be standalone, and will be filled with references to the D&D manuals. It makes sense after the mass reproduction of the rules that occurred during the d20 phenomenon, which allowed entire splinter games (which varied only sightly from D&D) to gain a significant market share.



This is a blog about the development of the Dragon In Ninth Heaven role playing game. This is a game based on Hong Kong kung fu comics, specifically “Dragon Tiger Gate”, aka “Oriental Heroes” in the English translations. The game aims to capture the feel of these comics in a Chinese cultural environment, staying away from anything Japanese.

The current development will be using the Dungeons and Dragons 4E Game System License.

It has gone through several iterations now, starting back in 1992 when it existed as a standalone system written during university lectures. It later evolved into a d20 game when the 3rd Edition of Dungeons and Dragons was released, and was tested with a couple of adventures in a small campaign. After that I discovered True20, and have updated the d20 version of the game to work with that system. The True20 version was never completed, but came pretty close.

During the development of the True20 version of the game, the d20 version was almost published. A small publisher in the UK took interest in it, but this deal ended up falling through.

There have been unresolved problems with the way the game worked in the earlier editions:

  • The first edition did not scale at all, and characters who chose some options would always win over others in any combat
  • the d20 version was pretty good, but combat was really a little too complicated for me to be happy – I wanted a better flow to the game. It also suffered from the power imbalance a little – there were one or two particular combinations of kung fu powers that were very powerful
  • the True20 version works well but has not been completed, and requires too many dice rolls for combat for my liking.

When the new 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons was released, I realised that this new system was perfect for the type of game I was trying to create with Dragon In Ninth Heaven. The new power system that names special attacks and allows growth and learning of new abilities works much better than the way I had subverted feats in previous editions. The only problem is the redesign of the system and a total rewrite of a pretty much completed rules book. This blog will be used to document that process.

Here are the older versions of the game:

  1. d20 Dragon In 9th Heaven
  2. True20 Dragon In 9th Heaven
  3. Supplement for the d20 version of the game

August 2009
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