Posts Tagged ‘overview


Change of direction

Hi folks,

I’ve been thinking about this project while I was forced to take a break from it. I came to the conclusion that I’ve bitten off too much for a first draft of the game. Going through the character creation process highlighted the problem.

The real issue is that I have created too many classes. Each class requires a lot of work, and then needs to work with several kung fu styles. Although in the long term I would like more classes, for now I’m going to trim the list back.

Here are my current thoughts:

  • Champion – Dexterity-based striker
  • Guardian – Strength-based defender
  • Doctor – Intelligence-based leader
  • Mystic – Wisdom-based controller

The kung fu styles will allow each class to focus further on its own role, or to branch out into others. A minimal set of styles will be:

  • Dexterity-based striker style
  • Dexterity-based style, mobility focus
  • Strength-based striker style
  • Strength-based defender style
  • Constitution-based defender style
  • Intelligence-based style, party utility focus (providing buffs and debuffs)
  • Wisdom-based style, area attack focus
  • Wisdom-based style, movement impairing focus

More styles would give greater flexibility, but I think a shortish list like this will be enough to cover the requirements in play.


character creation

Over the next few days I’m going to create the character Proud Leopard.

Proud Leopard is a warrior serving the Heaven and Earth clan, who are a powerful kung fu clan. They rule the surrounding area and have several large towns paying tribute to them, but the clan does not administer the local area directly. He was recruited into the clan at a young age and trained in one of their more common kung fu styles. His skill has marked him for a role in their assault forces which deal with the Black clan, their traditional enemies.

Proud Leopard is a Soldier who practises Lightning Fist kung fu and is an expert in Lightfoot.

In order to create this character I will need to:

  • Define the Solider class (at least up to level 1)
  • Describe Lightning Fist kung fu (at least up to level 1)
  • Create any appropriate Feats for a first level Soldier who wishes to specialise in Lightfoot
  • Ensure that unarmed kung fu weapons and armour have been defined (possibly in the class definition)

I’ll be posting again soon with these details.


Musings on how to integrate kung fu powers with 4E

In previous versions of Dragon In Ninth Heaven, all characters were granted powers based on the type of kung fu style they knew.

  • the d20 edition gave bonuses, base powers and unique powers
  • the True20 edition used two feats per style to capture the powers

In both these editions, the powers are common across styles, with the power source of the style deciding which power is available. I prefer the way the True20 edition handled the powers, turning them into feats and keeping the overall character simpler.

For the new edition I still have several possibilities that are not decided. I still want each kung fu style to be built from a combination of power sources, and those power sources to provide powers. Here’s a list of the chi concentrations which form the basis of kung fu styles:

  • Spirit
    • Building Chi
    • Chi Control
    • Focusing Chi
  • Body
    • Power
    • Toughness
    • Speed
  • Mind
    • Meditation
    • Awareness
    • Mysticism

Each style is built using one or two of the concentrations at the second level of the list, and each concentration grants two powers that a character may learn. Some styles restrict the power that can be learnt.
Here’s an example of two of the powers from a previous edition:

Invulnerability [Chi Concentration]
Prerequisites: kung fu
Benefit: Characters who has mastered the art of Invulnerability can focus all their chi into a single point on their body during the instant that an opponent strikes them. This power can be used once per round and only applies to a single strike, but gives a +10 bonus to the Toughness save against that attack for a cost of 10 CHI.
Chi Speed [Chi Concentration]
Prerequisites: kung fu
Benefit: The character has the ability to instantly travel to anywhere they could normally move to (which may include climbing or jumping) which is within 10 foot per character level and in line of sight. Each use of this power costs 5 CHI. Using Chi Speed is a move action.

Moving to 4th edition


So now I want to find a way to build kung fu styles and powers into the classes for 4th Edition D&D. The tools that I see for this edition are:

  • Feats
  • Class features
  • Exploits/Prayers/Spells
  • Racial powers

Although I have used feats for previous editions of Dragon In Ninth Heaven, I don’t really want to do that again for kung fu powers. It really feels like just bolting something onto the system, and I have always needed to add the ability to purchase more feats to do it.

Class features are an appealing way to handle these kung fu powers. A good parallel is the Channel Divinity class feature that Clerics and Paladins share. This grants the ability to use other powers once per encounter – and those powers are available from a list based on the class/role/deity of the character. Using this mechanic would allow me to include a class feature with each class that granted access to kung fu powers – potentially different powers or a different number of uses based on the class. I could see a doctor of traditional medicine knowing one kung fu power while a travelling warrior monk would have access to two powers due to the level of focus the class has on kung fu.

Class exploits will be used for kung fu powers, but I don’t like the idea of the fundamental abilities granted by a style being provided as exploits. This is because all classes would share the same ones, and that is something that D&D avoids in the core rulebooks. Class exploits are designed to be specific to that class, and I want to keep the distinction clear.

Racial powers are an interesting place to put powers. I haven’t thought too much about the races, other than the fact that all characters are basically human. Given that kung fu is a trained ability, I can’t see a logical reason to link it to racial powers. It might be a neat idea to have cultural kung fu techniques available because of a base racial stock though. I’ll explore this more another time.

Decision time. I’m going to use class features for kung fu styles, and all classes will have them. The basic class feature will be kung fu, and that will require the choice of a kung fu style. This will grant access to kung fu feats (like Channel Divinity) which may be used once per encounter. Some classes will be granted access to more than one feat, and be able to use the kung fu feat up to twice per encounter.


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

May 2018
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