World Tree d20

   OK, now that I’m not so ill, I’ll try putting this up as a unified document.

   World Tree is an impressive RPG: the world background is rich and detailed, the local laws of physics are consistent – and their quirks are clearly reflected in both the rules system and the societies which operate under those laws – and the setting (the titular World Tree) is quite creative.

   Just as importantly, it’s difficult to really solve most problems by combat in the setting. Not only are most creatures of the tree pretty tough, but many of them – including virtually all adult members of the eight dominant races – will have emergency healing and escape effects available if they find themselves losing. Of course, if they do get killed, once they’re past a brief (2d6 minute) interlude between physical death and the departure of the spirit, resurrection is near-impossible. A battle to the very end is just about as dangerous for player-characters as for their opponents – arguably the way it ought to be.

   Unfortunately, it’s never gotten much publicity, the rules system is tightly interwoven with the setting, the cover art could be considerably more active, character creation takes awhile – partly because it’s a fairly detailed system and partly because most characters will have a fair amount of life experience and training before they go adventuring – and the setting is entirely alien, with no humans or near-humans, such as “elves” and “dwarves”. Thus, despite the presence of small feathered dragons, insectoid creatures, and flying squidlike creatures as player characters, it’s been pretty much classified as a “Furry” niche production, and ignored.

   Now d20 tends to be pretty generic – but it’s easy to find players for, practically everyone who games at all is familiar with it, and it works reasonably well for a lot of settings.  Ergo, here are a few World Tree to d20 mechanical conversions set up for the Eclipse: The Codex Persona classless d20 rules (available in print HERE or in a shareware version HERE). If you want any of the really good racial, cultural, setting, or other details, you’ll just have to pick up the World Tree book – available HERE.

   For some basic notes, all members of the World Tree races:

  • Are natural magicians, using the Theurgy system of Noun-and-Verb magic. They normally start casting small spells around age four. By young adulthood they can be expected to have a minimum of two Caster Levels Specialized in Theurgy (6 CP) and 4d4 Generic Spell Levels (purchased as Mana and rolled each day, rather than once when purchased, 12 CP) to work with. They can also sense magic, and even gain some details about it with concentration – although they usually have to be paying attention (Occult Sense, 6 CP)
  • Gain a Theurgy bonus related to the God or Gods who created their race.
  • Gain a bonus hit die at level one, as noted with each race.
  • Have lifespans roughly comparable to a humans – although the immortal Zi Ri are an exception.
  • Cannot be raised or resurrected if they’ve been dead for more than 2d6 minutes. Secondarily, in most cases, their general abilities should be quite familiar to their opponents. Between them, these are enough to consider the various World Tree – or “Prime” – racial packages Corrupted.
  • Are normally created with an advantage-and-disadvantage system which gives them a variety of social connections and obligations as well as special talents and/or professional experience. This means that an inexperienced young adventurer will probably have some major special talents, while someone without such talents will probably have at least four levels worth of experience over and above their +2 ECL modifier. If you want a World Tree style game, it’s best to start off at around level six.

   Cani are doglike humanoids, and extremely sociable. Cani marriages normally include at least ten adults and numerous children – and most Cani past adolescence will be married. If a Cani is on his or her own, they’re either very eccentric or something is seriously wrong. They tend to start seeing whoever they’re with as part of their family after a few weeks, which makes them exceptionally reliable companions, servants, or slaves. They run their society thorough a system of prestige resembling classical Traveler’s Vargr. However, unlike the Vargr, their leadership shifts fluidly depending on who is seen as best qualified to deal with any specific matter, rather than one individual being dominant in most situations.

   The Cani Racial Package includes Basic World Tree Theurgy (as above, 24 CP), +2 to Strength, Wisdom, and Charisma (Self-Development, 36 CP), a +4 Bonus to Theurgy/Control (4 CP), [12 + Con Mod] Bonus HP at Level One (Bonus Hit Die, 20 CP), Augmented Bonus / may add their (Wis Mod) to Charisma-based rolls (6 CP), Assistant (6 CP), 1d6 Natural Weapons (Martial Arts, 6 CP), DR 2/- (Damage Reduction, applies against both physical and energy attacks, 3 CP), Occult Sense/Scent (6 CP), a +4 bonus to any chosen charisma-based skill (4 CP), and +2 bonuses to Spot, Search, and Survival (6 CP). The package has a net cost of 121 CP – or 81 CP after the Corruption, resulting in a net +2 ECL adjustment.

   Gormorror are big, shaggy ursine types – comparable to Wookies in Star Wars games. In general, they’re fantasy-style barbarians, living in small wilderness tribes, seeing their purpose in life as combat, and their destiny as a glorious and heroic death in battle. Their social structure is mostly based on personal combat, although they also place enormous stress upon their word of honor. World Tree has some mechanics for that, but even there they mostly only affect relationships with other Gormorror.

   The Gormorror Racial Package includes basic World Tree Theurgy (as above, 24 CP), +2 Str, -2 Dex, +4 Con, and +2 Wis (36 CP + Attribute Shift, 6 CP), +4 BAB (Base Attack Bonus, 24 CP), Improved Stoic with Ferocity (15 CP), DR 2/- (applies to both physical and energy damage, 3 CP), +3 to Theurgy / Control and Theurgy / Destroy (6 CP), [20 + Con Mod] Bonus HP at Level One (28 CP), a +2 Bonus on Willpower Saves (Resist, 6 CP), Defender (Specialized for double effect: +2 Natural Armor bonus to AC (12 CP), 1d6 Natural Weapons (Martial Arts, 6 CP), and +4 to Intimidate and Survival (8 CP). The package has a base cost of 174 points. Fortunately for them, it can be considered Specialized – since, on top of the basic problems common to all the World Tree races, their combat and honor obsessions are actually built into their mental structure (and allow other people to easily spot dishonorable Gormorror), they’re on the upper limits of the medium size class (and thus have problems with doorways and confined places, with finding meals terribly skimpy, having to have all their equipment specially made, and so on), and they’re essentially automatically seen as battle-crazed barbarians. That brings the net cost down to 87 CP, for a +2 ECL adjustment.

   Herethroy have two arms, two arm-legs, and two legs, at least three sexes (males are relatively scarce), chitinous armor, warm blood, and some internal bones. They usually live in farming villages – essentially massive families – run by the females. They are strictly herbivorous and tend to be extremely calm and very mild-spoken.

   The Herethroy Racial Package provides basic World Tree Theurgy (as above, 24 CP), +4 with Theurgy/Creation (4 CP), +2 Int, +2 Con, and -2 Dex (Attribute Shift 6 CP and Self-Development 12 CP), DR 4/- (9 CP), Extra Limbs (allows the use of two shields with cumulative effects, 6 CP), Bonus Attack (when using a staff in the arm-legs in conjunction with at least one other weapon, 6 CP), +2 BAB (Specialized, only to compensate for penalties when using the bonus attack. Note that this also allows the use of defensive staff-based arts in combination with other martial arts, 6 CP), Tireless (6 CP), [12 + Con Mod] Bonus HP at Level One (20 CP), +4 Natural Armor (Defender, 24 CP), and +4 bonuses to Climb, Knowledge/History, and Knowledge/Nature (12 CP). That brings the net cost to 135 CP, or 90 CP and a +2 ECL after the usual Corruption modifier.

   Khtsoyis are seven-tentacled levitating squid-creatures, equipped with an array of five eyes, two mouths (one for eating and one for talking), a near-complete lack of internal organs, chameleon abilities, and very few scruples. They tend to be casually violent and inclined to petty criminality if not restrained by their comrades. Fortunately, they’re oddly good-humored about it and tend to be loyal to whoever pays them. While they have a fairly nasty bite – at least against unarmored targets who can be dragged right up under their bodies – this forfeits other attacks and is virtually never useful in d20, so they’re not charged for it.

   The Khtsoyis Racial Package includes Basic World Tree Theurgy (as above, 24 CP), +4 with Theurgy/Destruction (4 CP), +6 Con, +2 Str, -2 Int, and -2 Chr (Attribute Shift x2, 12, Self-Development 24), Celerity/New Movement Mode/Flight at 30″ (Corrupted: they travel at half speed unless they can reach things to pull themselves along, 14), +2 Natural Armor (12 CP), [12 + Con Mod] Bonus HP at Level One (20), Extra Limbs (they like to use two shields and a bunch of clubs, as shown under their bonus attacks, 6), +1 Bonus Attack with Clubs or Maces (6), +7 BAB with Clubs or Maces Only (21), Immunity to extra damage from Critical Hits and Sneak Attacks (Common / Major / Major 9, reduces the effects of such attacks by thirty points), DR4/- (only against physical attacks, 6), Innate Enchantment (Heal Self 1d8+1+Con Mod once per day per level; this can be used once per round without counting as an action, Color-shifting for +10 to Hide, and +10 to Move Silently, 6 CP), for a grand total of 164 CP. Fortunately for the budget conscious, Khytosis also suffer from a wide variety of limitations above and beyond the World Tree norm: they do not heal naturally, suffer a -3 on rolls related to taste and smell perception, cannot wear armor, are regarded by all but the insanely tolerant as dangerous thugs (most regard them as monsters – if simply from their appearance at first, usually with good reason later on), and – in d20 universes – are pretty much invariably too irreverent to be granted clerical magic by anyone. That’s quite enough to take the entire package from Corrupted to Specialized, reducing the net cost to 82 CP and a +2 ECL modifier.

   Orren are anthromorphic mustelids on land and can shapeshift to fully-aquatic forms in water. They’re easygoing, playful, prone to massive bursts of randomly-directed enthusiasm and activity, and fairly lazy the rest of the time. They have no obvious external sexual differences. Orren usually live in small villages by rivers and lakes – but may decide to go adventuring at random.

   The Orren Racial Package includes Basic World Three Theurgy (as above, 24 CP), +4 with Theurgy / Understand (4 CP), +2 Str, Int, and Con (36 CP), [8 + Con Mod] Bonus HP at Level One (16 CP), +30 Swimming Movement and a +8 on Swim checks (Celerity, 18 CP), Fast Learner Specialized in Skills and Corrupted (the points must be spent on skill the character is currently at least two points below his or her maximum rank in, +6 SP/Level, 6 CP), Immunity to Suffocation (Common / Major / Minor: they can hold their breath for several minutes of frantic activity, for much longer if they’re quiet, 6 CP), Innate Enchantment (Personal Haste, Reduce Self [a version which throws in a few shapeshifting tweaks to look more aquatic but does NOT affect their gear, only usable when wet], may double or halve the duration of transformation spells that affect them, 6 CP), Defender (+Level/5 Dodge Bonus to AC, 6 CP), and Reflex Action (Bonus Action option, Specialized; user must be very excited and will occasionally – about one time in six – do silly things, if the player will not fulfill this requirement, the GM should simply have all their actions botch on a roll of 1-3. +24 Actions/Day total, 24 CP). This gives their racial package a base cost of 140 CP – 93 CP or a +2 ECL modifier after the basic World Tree racial corruption modifier.

   Rassimel are the most human-like of all the inhabitants of the World Tree. They are somewhat raccoon-like, civilized, urban, and inclined to obsession. Combined with their ability to learn very very quickly, this means that most World Tree experts – on any subject – are Rassimel. While they do need to sleep, they don’t have to sleep in any particular pattern: if they need to work on something for a week straight, and then sleep for two days straight, so be it. They need less sleep on average than others anyway.

   The Rassimel Racial Package includes Basic World Three Theurgy (as above, 24 CP), +4 with Theurgy / Heal (4 CP), +4 Dex and +2 Int (36 CP), [8 + Con Mod] Bonus HP at Level One (16 CP), Three (!) levels of Fast Learner (may be specialized in particular fields, 18 CP), Resistance to Poison, Disease, and Negative Energy (Grant of Aid with the Mighty option and +4 Bonus Uses: Specialized for Double Effect: takes at least three rounds to take effect and only restores damage from poisons, diseases, and negative Energy, 15 CP), +4 to all Saving Throws against Poisons, Diseases, or Negative Energy (6 CP), Immunity to Sleep (Common / Minor / Minor, Specialized: must make up for at least 50% of the missed sleep later on, 2 CP), +4 to Climb, Concentration, and any three other skills of choice (15 CP). This gives them a net cost of 141 CP, or – after the standard World Tree Corruption modifier – 94 CP, pushing the upper limits of the +2 ECL Modifier range.

   Sleeth are cat-creatures. They are handless (and are thus unable to use most weapons or equipment), solitary, predatory, and sensibly and coldly survival-oriented (no matter how cowardly that makes them look). They tend to live in small groups in the wilderness, since they make everyone else nervous (as well as – like all cats – making them wince at the things they do to their backs). Occasionally they form close relationships with other people, but that’s rare, even among themselves. Still, as quadrupeds, they do get a +10′ to their movement rate. That’s something anyway.

   The Sleeth Racial Package provides Basic World Three Theurgy (as above, 24 CP), +4 with Theurgy / Transform (4 CP) and +2d4 additional Generic Spell Levels (6 CP), +4 Dex and +2 Wis (36 CP), [20 + Con Mod] Bonus HP at Level One (28 CP), Darksight (Occult Sense, 6 CP), Scent (Occult Sense, 6 CP), 1d8 Natural Weapons (Martial Arts/9 CP), Bonus Attack (Rake, Corrupted: only in close combat, 4 CP), +6 BAB Specialized in Natural Weapons Only (18 CP), DR 2/- (equally effective against physical and energy damage, 3 CP), +2 Dodge Bonus to AC (Defender, 12 CP), Innate Enchantment (Cure Light Wounds/Heals 1d8+1 HP per hour spent sleeping in the sun, Sunshield/grants immunity to being blinded by bright light, sunstroke, and similar troubles, Lesser Shaping/generates L0 Control/Flesh effects as needed, Enhanced Feline Skills (+3 bonus to Climb, Hide, Jump, Listen, Move Silently, Spot, and Survival), Personal Haste, 11 CP), and an impressive set of skill bonuses – +1 to “Speak” Language (gestural hunting language, 1 CP) and +3 each to Climb, Hide, Jump, Listen, Move Silently, Spot, and Survival (For a total of +6 racial bonuses, 21 CP) – for a total of 189 CP. Once again, fortunately for the budget-minded, the Sleeth have numerous disadvantages over and above the basic World Tree limitations: they cannot use anything heavier than specially-tailored leather armor, are generally – and with considerable justification – seen as dangerous monsters rather than acceptable citizens, have no hands (and must make difficult dexterity checks for simple tasks such as turning doorknobs) and can’t use most equipment. That’s quite enough to specialize the entire deal, reducing the cost to 94 CP or a +2 ECL modifier.

   Zi Ri are small (about 30 pound), feathered-and-scaled, hermaphroditic dragons. They do not age after adulthood and are not subject to natural death. Perhaps fortunately, they breed extremely slowly. They tend to be playful, hedonistic, and unconcerned about short-term affairs. They aren’t generally physically dangerous, but the older ones tend to be incredibly powerful mages. Despite their light weight, their feathers, wings, snaky necks and tails, and hollow bones make them large enough to count as medium-sized creatures.

   The Zi Ri Racial Package includes Basic World Three Theurgy (as above, 24 CP), +4d4 extra Generic Spell Levels (12 CP), and +2 additional Theurgy Caster Levels (4 total, 6 CP) +7 with Theurgy / Heal (7 CP), +4 Dex, +2 Int, and -6 Str (Attribute Shift, 18 CP), [4 + Con Mod] Bonus HP at Level One (12 CP), +2 on all Saving Throws (Resist, 18 CP), 30′ Flight (about half speed unless they use their wings, 24 CP), DR 2/- (equally effective against physical and energy damage, 3 CP), 1d4 Natural Weapons (their tiny teeth and claws or very small, short-range, puffs of flame, 6 CP), Immunity to Fire (Common / Major / Minor, or 12 points of damage per exposure, 6 CP), Immunity to Aging (Uncommon / Severe / Great, 18 CP. Zi Ri can expect to live almost forever – unless killed), Augmented Bonus (may add their [Int Mod] to all Theurgy Checks, 6 CP), and Knowledge/History +6 (6 CP). That comes to a total of 166 CP. However, once again, the Zi Ri have some significant disadvantages: they cannot use armor (or any shield larger than an extra-small buckler) and cannot effectively manage any weapon (or object) larger than a normal dagger – enough to take the usual World Tree Race Corruption modifier to Specialized, and the net cost down to 82 CP or +2 ECL.

   Finally we come to the major special abilities found on the World Tree. While the names of various basic skills may vary a bit, translating things like “Wilderness Survival” to “Survival” or “Sneak” to a combination of “Move Silently” and “Hide” should not be overly difficult. A few abilities are, however, more problematic.

  • Feather Casting lets you unreliably cast simple spells at very low power levels – but often lets you do so without spending any power on them. In Eclipse you could do this with Triggering, the Path of the Dragon, or in several other ways – but it’s easiest to simply buy 6d4 Generic Spell Levels, Specialized (spells cast using levels from this reserve have only one-quarter their usual effect) and Corrupted (the caster has only a 50% chance of successfully drawing on this reserve when a spellcasting attempt is made: on a failure there is no cost, but the attempt is wasted). This has a net cost of 6 CP – cheap enough if anyone wants it.
  • Hammer Casting and Spontaneous Force let you spend extra magic to give extra oomph to your spells. Since d20 doesn’t really draw a distinction between “Spontaneous” and “Pattern” magic in Theurgy, you can buy either the same way: take Mighty Hysteria (12 CP): that will allow the user to spend an extra 4 Generic Spell Levels when casting a spell to double its effect.
  • Magic Resistance essentially translates into d20 as Saving Throws. Simply buy up saves as you would for any d20 character to represent characters with a high Magic Resistance.
  • Meditation allows the user to partially replenish their magical reserves after a brief period of mediation. Buy this as Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses (12 CP).
  • Ritual Magic and Spellweaving allow the creation of unique magical effects, either of great power or of great subtlety. In either case, they are easily represented by the Ritual Magic ability (6 CP) – although practitioners will, of course, want to invest heavily in the appropriate supporting skills.
  • Enchantment doesn’t exactly match the usual d20 item creation rules, but it does match the Create Artifact ability relatively closely at the high end. At the low end, world tree artificers have a relatively easy time making minor items. To match that, you’ll need both Create Artifact (6 CP) and either Action Hero/Crafting Option (6 CP) OR Immunity / Special Requirements other than Time, Money, and Effort when making minor enchanted devices (Common / Major / Minor, 6 CP). In either case, a total of 12 CP. The one version will simply allow you to pull out the occasional device – great for wise old enchanters who are “prepared for anything” – while the second version allows you to produce a large number of minor devices given the time and money.
  • Spellbinding is really one of the most potent abilities in World Tree. While there are some limitations, given a decent score you can store pretty much any spell you can cast, programmed with some condition which will trigger it one or off your action. Building that ability is a bit harder: It requires Spell Storing (6 CP), and the entire list of improved activation methods right down to “Programmed” (4 Options specialized only as Prerequisites for 6 CP and Programmed for 3 CP). You’ll also need Immunities to the usual Time, Money, and Experience Requirements (all three are Common / Major / Major, for a total of 27 CP). 42 CP is quite a chunk. Fortunately, there are those limitations: Any individual owner can possess a maximum of (Wisdom) bound spells before they start to spontaneously decay, they cost +6 spell levels each to cast, they can’t be stored without an owner, only someone with at least some innate magical energy (having at least 1d4 Generic Spell Levels to their name) can count as an owner, and the conditions of this package normally cannot be modified: if you want a similar-but-improved ability you’ll either need special permission from the game master or to develop it from the beginning. On the simple economic level, once this ability becomes available, the prices for stored spells, of any variety, are likely to drop drastically in the setting.
  • The various Weapon Skills are essentially specialized versions of buying Warcraft or BAB (Base Attack Bonus). If you have one, go ahead and specialize it for half cost. Two or more? Just buy BAB.
  • Combat Stance Base is a combination of BAB and Expertise (6 CP – or, at higher, levels, Improved Expertise, for 12 CP). The various combat options are mostly either a part of the basic d20 combat system (Trip, Sunder, Etc) or can be purchased as Special Abilities. Since d20 doesn’t really use different systems for armed and unarmed combat, Brawling fits in here as well.
  • Dodge simply translates over into various levels of the Defender ability (Dodge Bonus, as opposed to Natural Armor or Deflection bonuses).

   Now, personally, I’d recommend actually playing World Tree, but – for those who can’t find anyone who wants to give an unfamiliar system a try – the d20 conversion is at least a place to start.

  • World Tree is copyright 2000 by Bard Bloom and Victoria Borah Bloom. The grossly boiled-down racial descriptions are presumably derivative works. With any luck, this may sell them a few extra copies or otherwise be useful to them.
  • The assorted game mechanics associated with the game terms used above are Open Game License (Version 1.0a).
  • Everything not simply derivative, or a list of d20 abilities, is Copyright 2008, Paul M. Melroy. The Blooms are welcome to use any of it they like.

   If you’d like some more World Tree material, it’s on the Other Games Tab – although you’ll have to scroll down a bit. If you’d like some more d20 Material, it’s on the d20 Tab.

4 Responses

  1. That sounds like a quite credible interpretation of World Tree in d20. Well, I don’t grok all the details — though I am going to go look up Eclipse in a bit — but it sounds pretty sensible.

    We thought about doing a World Tree d20. But the first of d20 came out when we were in the last phases of putting World Tree together. We didn’t have the resources to do a second variant. And, more importantly, the d20 available at the time didn’t include things like Theurgy, so we’d have had to invent quite a lot of d20 material ourselves or lose the close connection between the world and the rules.

    Anyways, nice job!
    — Bard

  2. Why thank you!

  3. […] ECL World Tree Races: Cani (Dog-Folk), Gormorror (Bear Folk), Herethroy (Insect Folk), Khtsoyis (Flying Octopi), […]

  4. […] ambitious. They wrote tight systems that were deeply integrated with specific settings. Games like World Tree or Army Ants or Bunnies and Burrows could be very, VERY, good games – but you weren’t […]

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