The Carrion Crown
E6 (or in this case - E7)
I’m making this a low-mid level campaign. This is a variant of the E6 subsystem of 3.5… The Age that featured mighty hero’s and incredible, nearly godlike Villain’s the like of Whispering Tyrant has past. Magic is also waning – its golden age long past and only scholars can speculate if will return again. The death of the God Aroden in the year 4606 (over 100 years ago, it is now 4712) seems only to have accelerated the decline… while others instead claim the death of a God to be a symptom of that decline.
Hero’s are still Heroic, but not on the Epic scale of the past Age.
What is E6?
In E6 play, the stats of an average person are the stats of a 1st-level commoner. Like their medieval counterparts, this person has never travelled more than a mile or more from their home. Imagine a 6th-level Wizard or 6th-level Fighter from the commoner’s perspective. The wizard could kill everyone in your village with a few words. The fighter could duel with ten armed guards in a row and kill every one of them. If you spot a manticore, everyone you know is in terrible, terrible danger. Against such a creature, the wizard or fighter may be your only hope. E6 recognizes that 6th level characters are mortal (7th in this case), while providing a context where they are epic heroes.
The majority of NPCs you will meet will be 1st level, some NPCs 2nd level, a few may be 3rd or 4th level. Only exceptional NPCs will be 5th level or better. As a rule of thumb, the NPC classes will be just for the majority of people the players interact with. That said, there are still those who walk the world, living legends – heros and villains both who can do feats unimagined by the average person. Magic is challenging, mysterious, respected, and even feared. A simple ‘Cure Light Wounds’ spell can restore a 1st level NPC from the brink of death due to wounds to complete health. A ‘Sleep’ spell can drop a handful of strongmen in their tracks… to say nothing of higher level spells. A 1st or 2nd level spell caster is a person of influence and power… a 5th level caster would be a master of the ‘Craft’.
Where do your characters fit in?
At first level, you’re already a person of respect… A fighter or ranger may be a combat veteran, a bard would be a noted performer or courtier, a Cleric a respected voice of the Faith and so on. As a level 1 player character, you are so much more prepared for a heroic destiny than an NPC. Each character gets two traits, which define a characters background and breeding, often granting small but tangible benefits. Player classes obtain class feats and powers, which NPC classes miss, only getting racial and level based feats. PC stats are generally superior. Finally where NPCs generally get half hit points per hit dice, player classes automatically get full hit points at level 1, making them more durable. At second level you can survive trials that would kill the average man.
How does this work then?
At 6th level characters have a choice on which direction they will proceed for their 7th and final level – to gain a prestige class, gain another level as a multi-class character (if already multi-classed) or progress to their 7th level of a class they have exclusively leveled in.
Full Casting Classes that gain access to 4th level spells at 7th level instead can either use the spell slot for Meta Magic enhanced spells or for a bonus spell slot for any spell level they have access to. 3/4 BAB classes such as the bard or inquisitor, that normally would gain access to 3rd level magic, instead can either use the spell slot for Meta Magic enhanced spells or for a bonus spell slot for any spell level they have access to. Full BAB casters such as the Ranger and Paladin, do not get access to their bonus 2nd level spell (assuming their attributes allow it), but instead can use that slot to enhance 1st level spells via metamagic feats.
Those choosing to multi-class at 7th level cannot gain 3rd or 4th level spells OR a second attack even if the class level or BAB would normally allow for such if they do not already have access. To multi-class at 7th level they must have first taken a level of another class between levels 2 and 6.
Those who have been exclusive in their class choice can buy feats as if they were 8th level in their class once they hit 7th level. They can also buy any other class features (including Domain or School abilities), normally available at level 8 as a feat. Sorcerers can buy their 9th level Bloodline power (without enhancement to existing bloodline powers).
Prestige classes are only available at 7th level (assuming prerequisites are met) and allow class features (not saves, BAB or spell increases) to be be purchased as feats, the character counting as having only one level in the Prestige Class. Class Features that allow improvement of caster level cannot be purchased. Prestige Class Features beyond level 2 cannot be purchased either.
Once the maximum level (7) is reached characters spend 10,000xp to buy feats instead of putting towards leveling. 7th level works better with Pathfinders growth system of class benefits than 6th so we will use 7th as the Capstone level.
IF using the Step System (see Changes to Level Progression house rules) then once past 7th level, the player chooses from a choice of 1 skill point or 1 hit point after the first session, takes a skill point or hit point for the second session (whatever was not picked in the first session) and after the third session chooses a feat.
Character growth is sideways at this point, enriching and detailing the character, rather than linear growth.
In addition to the feats already available in the core rules, additional feats will also become available.
Why? Why are you doing this? I like high level games!
Horror really only has a chance when there is a real possibility of death (or worse) happening to the character – and that just doesn’t work when you can call down Godlike powers of Destruction or whip your sword around as if you were an industrial strength food processor.
Additionally this Adventure Path comes with a large amount of investigative work – something that completely falls apart when the characters can just summon up some sort of entity to do all the finding for them, whistle up otherworldly powers to just answer all their questions or have obscene skill modifiers that make any skill challenge an auto success.
Finally the E6 concept works best when the man on the street remains… the man on the street! Town guards don’t mysteriously become 4th level fighters just because some 9th level adventurers walk into town – they stay as level 1 or level 2 NPC’s. You WILL be kickarse compared to much of the population at first level – by the time you hit level 4, it will be difficult to find anyone who is your equal… unfortunately your average nemesis type also has class levels as well but you sort of knew that already.
Some “builds” are feat intensive. These are still achievable with this method, plus with many of the house ruled changes to feats, base line feats like Weapon Expertise and Power Attack are free (assuming you qualify for them normally), allowing you to spend your feat choices elsewhere.
The long and the short of it is that the power level scales more naturally to fit low and mid levels.
Level 7 is it, right? No one will ever be above level 7?
For you, the players, that will be the case. Yes.
NPCs? Well, not so much – Particularly long lived creatures may see level 8+, as may those who go to extraordinary lengths via rituals, dark magics and so forth, but these options aren’t available to player characters within the scope of this campaign. Level 8+ is reserved for story telling purposes, major villains and so on.
How ‘tough’ am I at 7th level?
Pretty damn tough – in campaign terms, you should be able to stand toe to toe with a Vampire or Werewolf and have a good chance of winning on your own… of course those creatures rarely are dumb enough to stand toe to toe with heros, and hopefully you’ve lived long enough to know better than to engage in stand up battles with vampires and werewolves.