Pegataur Shamans & Wiccas: ¡Poderoso!

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Shannon
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Pegataur Shamans & Wiccas: ¡Poderoso!

Post by Shannon » Tue Feb 12, 2019 12:53 am

How do folks handle pegataurs' abilities with spells? <i>Top Ballista</i> indicates pegataurs can attain eight level as either shamans or wiccas (higher with success at ability checks and difficult rituals):
Pegataurs with Wisdom 15+ can become shamans. Those with Intelligence 15+ can become wiccas. As with other non-natural spellcasters, pegataurs may choose to become spellcasters at any time after reaching normal monster status.... However, like elves, pegataurs also naturally progress as limited spellcasters. Those pegatuars who do not choose the wicca path gain spells as elves of the same level. Pegataur shamans have access to the druidic spell list, being freely able to mix clerical and druidic spells....
Dawn of the Emperors adds:
A 5 HD pegataur has the spell-casting abilities of a first-level elf, while a 14 HD pegataur has the spell-casting abilities of a tenth-level elf....
(This formula is the same in the Creature Catalogue and Vengeance of Alphaks.)

Wow. This system seems weird.

The rules for pegataurs as player-characters provide for a maximim of ten hit dice (obtained by a pegataur at eighth level, which is a little odd to reconcile with the data in the descriptions of pegataurs as mere monsters having up to fourteen hit dice. One can either hand-wave the inconsistency a bit by assuming the simpler system is just the most efficient way to handle mere monsters, and the more nuanced stuff in Top Ballista should only be bothered about for player-characters or important nonplayer-characters meriting the extra effort and potential power – after all, a thirtieth-level pegataur under those rules, despite having only ten hit dice, likely has far more hit points than one with fourteen hit dice...). Alternatively, one could presume the monstrous pegataur with fourteen hit dice represents one with a level of, say, about twenty. I think the first approach is easier and more sensible, but vive la difference!

Also of note is that it can be interpreted to mean that those using the system to enable elves to reach thirty-sixth level could have pegataurs gaining abilities to cast spells beyond those of a tenth level elf (obtained when the pegataur is itself tenth level). Another approach is to limit spellcasting to that available to a tenth-level elf in any event, on the theory that the last thing pegataurs need, especially as player-characters, is more power.

Those aren't the weird bits though. The truly weird bit, to me, is why on Mystara would any pegataur in his right mind bother at all to become a wicca, since pegataurs will attain abilities up to at least those of a tenth-level elf in any case. A wicca passing several ability checks for successful rituals could theoretically advance as a wicca to say, twelfth level and beyond, but the odds are against it. Taking that path, for that remote possibility, would be like turning down a a billion dollars, with no strings attached, for the slightest chance at maybe winning five billion dollars: there would be no takers save the insane.

Another possibility, though, is to read the rules carefully:
Those pegatuars who do not choose the wicca path gain spells as elves of the same level.
  • This statement does not require that those pegataurs who do become wiccas do not gain spells as elves of the same level!
[P]egataurs may choose to become spellcasters at any time after reaching normal monster status.... However, like elves, pegataurs also naturally progress as limited spellcasters
  • Pegataurs "may choose" to become spellcasters" as wiccas or shamans but, "like elves," they "also" naturally progress as limited spellcasters."
Carefully construed, the letter of these statements (I concede it may not have been their spirt!) suggests all pegataurs – every man Jack of them – obtains the elvish magical abilities, and any decision to become a wicca or shaman only adds additional abilities. Presumably, in practice, this would mean, among pegatuars:
  • Shamans gain the clerical spells available to shamans and druidic spells available to shamans with druidic ability subject to their levels as shamans, in addition to their abilities to cast magical spells as elves of the corresponding level as pegataurs.
  • Wiccas effectively gain additional spells from those available to wiccas, appropriate in number and level with their levels as wiccas, in addition to the spells they can cast as elves of their level as pegataurs.
Did I explain all that clearly? This solves the puzzle about why any pegataur would bother becoming a wicca at all, but it also makes pegataurs, already no slouches, even more powerful. In reckon pegataurs are easily comparable to sea giants, treants, and sphinxes in power among classes available as player-characters, with not quite as onerous a burden in experience points needed to advance and significantly less (though still substantial) handicaps regarding social and environmental limits to adventuring opportunities than those other heavy hitters.

What do you make of this analysis? Is this how those of you who have experience with pegataurs as player-characters have done things? Or did you limit pegataurs to either the elvish spellcasting or the path of a wicca or shaman? If the latter, didn't you encounter the business I mention about only a fool or a lunatic pursuing the path of a wicca? (There's more of an argument to give up the innate spellcasting as an elf for access to clerical and druidic spells, which are different; whereas the spells available to a wicca are actually fewer than those available to an elf....)

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Cthulhudrew
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Re: Pegataur Shamans & Wiccas: ¡Poderoso!

Post by Cthulhudrew » Tue Feb 12, 2019 7:26 am

Carl Sargent wrote a lot of things I like, but Top Ballista is really a mixed bag for me, increasingly the more I look at it. In particular, there were some very odd choices made for the PC races in that book, but mostly, the mechanics for just about all of them are really not very well thought out.

So, to get back to your question, I tend to regard the original rules for the Pegataur (that allow up to 14 HD with equivalent spellcasting of an elf of 10th level) as the better option. That definitely does require some reworking of the rules if you want to play one as a PC, but there you go. Having them take levels as a Wicca does not make any sense at all.

Sorry if that isn't more helpful other than to say that I agree with your general premise that there is something wrong with the rules as written, and in particular the notion that Pegataurs might opt to not gain their natural spellcasting in lieu of Wiccan spellcasting.
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Shannon
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Re: Pegataur Shamans & Wiccas: ¡Poderoso!

Post by Shannon » Tue Feb 12, 2019 3:32 pm

Thanks. Don't apologise. We mostly agree. I'm exploring these kinds of minutiae about less conventional classes precisely to check how viable they are from a practical perspective, make sure I'm not overlooking anything, and collect feedback about how best to handle any inconsistencies and weirdness.

So thanks again!

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Re: Pegataur Shamans & Wiccas: ¡Poderoso!

Post by Havard » Tue Feb 12, 2019 4:32 pm

Thanks for bringing this up! I know we had at least two Pegataur PCs in our campaigns back in the 90s, but I can't remember if the issue came up. Neither character was too long lived though IIRC. I do recall a human fighter and a Black Cat Pooka both mounted on top of a Pegataur who was sky high when killed by a fireball. The two riders survived the fireball, but not the fall in spite of being above water. The fighter rolled a natural 1 on his Dex check to dive... :facepalm:

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Re: Pegataur Shamans & Wiccas: ¡Poderoso!

Post by stebehil » Tue Feb 12, 2019 9:15 pm

The mechanics of Top Ballista especially are weird and IMO nearly unplayable. When I checked out all those critters, I noticed that the Sphinx needed so many xp to reach NM status that a human adventurer would be at the end of their career at that point (about 3 million xp, IIRC). Big and powerful creatures don´t work to well with the monsters as PC rules. The troll from GAZ 10 was straining the system already, and anything more powerful would just not work. The pegataur is another example.

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Re: Pegataur Shamans & Wiccas: ¡Poderoso!

Post by Robin » Wed Feb 13, 2019 11:55 am

stebehil wrote:
Tue Feb 12, 2019 9:15 pm
The mechanics of Top Ballista especially are weird and IMO nearly unplayable. When I checked out all those critters, I noticed that the Sphinx needed so many xp to reach NM status that a human adventurer would be at the end of their career at that point (about 3 million xp, IIRC). Big and powerful creatures don´t work to well with the monsters as PC rules. The troll from GAZ 10 was straining the system already, and anything more powerful would just not work. The pegataur is another example.
Ohhh I can only so agree with you.
I think these creatures should not even require such hefty amounts of xp at alll, and rise through the xptable by aging. The lowest level being a youngster, then until they reach normal monster status, then add the XP of the Class they resemble most (pegataur=Elf, Sphinx=Mage or cleric , Cloud Giant=Fighter, etc) and due the racial benefits add a penalty on the gained xp (examples; Pegataur=-25/33%, Sphinx=-33/50%, Cloud Giant=-50/66%). That way the Table stays similar, yet the characters rise through the ranks seemingly normal...I have had a Sphinx in one of my older groups(the player quit as she had ME) which used this system and it works better than the ones in the Top Ballista.


The question is what makes these characters needing more these extra XP's?.....only their size?, or ability to Flight, or is it their basic HD? I Don't feel like the first would merit such a hefty fine on their XP. I would restrict these PC's only to really experienced ROLEPLAYERS and not rollplayers.
And even under these circumstances look specifically at the creature; a pegataur is essentially nothing more than an animal crossbred with an elf, so should mimick those lines. a Cloud Giant would be nothing more tha a really large Human(oid), and only the sphinx would be a totally different creature. for the Sphinx you might want to give different XP for gaining knowledge ( i did compile something in Glantri Great School of Magic page 116 on another form of XP gaining, and whatever sytem you use, I would add this to the XP gaining of the Sphinx (than this not being penalized)
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Re: Pegataur Shamans & Wiccas: ¡Poderoso!

Post by Cthulhudrew » Wed Feb 13, 2019 5:44 pm

Robin wrote:
Wed Feb 13, 2019 11:55 am
The question is what makes these characters needing more these extra XP's?.....only their size?, or ability to Flight, or is it their basic HD? I Don't feel like the first would merit such a hefty fine on their XP. I would restrict these PC's only to really experienced ROLEPLAYERS and not rollplayers.
I think it is a combination of both high HD as well as other abilities (flight, natural spellcasting, multiple attacks, Monster attack chart, etc.) and is therefore intended as a balancing factor. I think a big problem with the xp charts as calculated is twofold- one becomes very apparent with these high xp monsters in requiring massive amounts at such low levels that they are no match for standard PCs of similar experience levels (Sphinx, Nagpa, etc.) the other being on the other side of the scale where the base xp calculations require that even after hitting "normal monster" level, they now require massive amounts of xp to advance, such that they don't remain competitive at a point in which their initial abilities do not seem quite as advantageous as characters of similar levels (ie, by this point, standard characters have magic items, spells, and abilities like weapon mastery that can help compensate for monster abilities whereas they didn't have them at lower levels).

I think a good general rule of thumb would be twofold:

One, revise the pre-NM levels with more earmarks so that the xp costs and leveling gains come more frequently and enable them to keep up with standard classes (Jim Bambra did this fairly well, IMO, in PC3 with creatures like the Sea Giant). A good measuring stick for this already exists in the DM's guides of the PC series (where they do the creature to class level comparisons).

Two, reduce the XP costs post-NM levels to something more in keeping with the level gains of the standard classes. The xp "doubling" effect of the baseline calculation quickly skyrockets for some of these creatures to the point where even capping at +300,000 xp/level comes so early in their careers that they don't keep pace with, say a Fighter.

Robin has some good alternative suggestions above as well.
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Re: Pegataur Shamans & Wiccas: ¡Poderoso!

Post by Robin » Wed Feb 13, 2019 6:29 pm

interesting take. We can be certain the xp charts vs creature seem to be conflicting to enable PC or even NPC use
I agree Jim Bambra got the jest and served reasonabley well with the sea giant amongst others.
That's not a bad idea the DM level table

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