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For those who are confused what E6 is, please go here: E6: The Game Inside D&D

I will be running an E6 game in Golarion in a few weeks. Two main assumptions I have made in the E6 version I am using are:

  • Player Characters and Non-Player Characters do not gain levels past 6.
  • Level 4 spells and above do not exist. Along with that: any +3 and above bonus to weapons and armor cannot be crafted by the PC's. Ritual Magic can be used to simulate some higher level effects (the spells that can be cast in this way is very limited).

What setting changes need to be addressed in order to convert Golarion to the E6 variant system?

This is a world building type question, and I'm considering the following spheres when asking it: political, civic, economic, military, and bestiary.

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3 Answers 3

My contention is - not much if anything.

History. All D&D settings are full of things done by ancient wizards or whatnot that are not actually achievable by PCs or NPCs under the normal game rules, whether it's the Field of Maidens or the Mana Wastes in Golarion or the Sea of Dust in Greyhawk or everything in the Forgotten Realms and Eberron. Using E6 for your PCs doesn't change that at all, so you don't need to retcon history to only account for "sixth level abilities."

Politics, Civics. First check out What percentage of the population is magical in Pathfinder's world of Golarion? Golarion is designed to not have many high level NPCs in the first place. Only people like country leaders are listed as higher level, or super-rare exceptional NPCs like Baba Yaga. You don't actually have to use the E6 rules for NPCs, so you could keep the most notable high level folks as their real high level and just make them super dangerous to cross for E6 PCs - a foe to plan a campaign around, not a mob to grind once the party's high level. Or, you can limit those rulers to L6 and rebuild them (where relevant) using the E6 rules. In that case the only political change I can think of is in cases where humans are collaborating with nonhumans (with the giants and winter wolves in Irrisen for example), devising a more nuanced justification for their cooperation than "a high level caster would melt the giants' faces if they misbehaved." So no real politic or civic changes except challenging you to find more textured explanations than "He in charge cuz he can bash everyone else."

Economy. Economy wise, there's less to spend megagold on since there's not super expensive items - but the inflation and problems of PCs having megagold compared to normal folks isn't good or conducive to a coherent game world anyway (see How to handle wealthy player characters as a GM?). The Golarion economy works better without the "hey there's a guy with 100,000 gp worth of stuff on him" problem.

Military. No D&D setting has ever had their militaries really reflect the realities of the D&D magic and combat system. They're always medieval-based theories of troops and fortifications that fly, invisibility, etc. make hash of. So there's not much to "dumb down" - the most notable "fantasy" units in Golarion are things like the Sable Marines of Korvosa who ride hippogriffs, which is still completely appropriate for E6.

Bestiary. Obviously you'd take a lighter hand with the high CR monsters just like the E6 rules say, but you don't have to remove them all - so a Linnorm King having to defeat a Linnorm is still on the table, it just means that the Linnorm Kings are way more bad ass than just being "a high level guy."

Adventures. The main problem with E6, really, is using the adventure content for Golarion. The Adventure Paths all go way past 6th level and chapters 3-6 would require significant adaptation, including the encounter tables and all. Since a big draw of Pathfinder/Golarion is the adventures, that's really the major downside. Also, if you limit all NPCs to L6 then your capstone threats can only be "monsters," which removes legendary threats like Baba Yaga, which is a bad GMing mistake IMO.

Frankly, E6 makes Golarion make more baseline sense than the usual d20 rules do! That's a big part of its draw; Golarion like Greyhawk and most traditional D&D campaign worlds are really only coherent if you assume there's not a bumper crop of high level folks around.

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You don't have to change anything. It's the players who have to change their choice of adventures, tactics, and builds. In E6, "killing the dragon" largely becomes impossible and that's that.

Specifically, leave high level NPCs as is. Let them serve as the occasional source of high level magic or other assistance that you're in control of.

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CIVIC (Including Divine/Magic services)

Trade Skills

I will use the Blacksmith trade to highlight relevant changes, changes to other trades can be assumed from this example—as well as the fact that blacksmiths are the number one trade that my PC’s tend to interact with.

  • The majority of blacksmiths will be Expert level 1. In a town such as Sandpoint (Varisia), the blacksmith at the Red Dog Smithy might be an expert level 2 since it is somewhat of a frontier town.
  • Towns the size of Sandpoint in more peaceful regions would likely only have an Expert level 1 as their blacksmith and therefore Masterwork and exotic items would be uncommon, or just unavailable.
  • Magnimar may have blacksmiths at level 3-4, thereby making Masterwork equipment much more available.

  • Dwarven crafters, with their inherent bonuses, are suddenly much more sought after in the E6 variant. A level 1 Dwarf Blacksmith can make Masterwork weapons with ease, and would be able to make a lot more quality exotic weapons as well. The Dwarven city of Highhelm in the Five Kings Mountains, would have industry around crafting items not seen anywhere else.

  • Magic artisan tools (better than the core rule book variety) would also be highly sought after.

Clergy

  • Priests in temples are likely to be level 1 or 2. High Priests are likely to be level 3. There may be some truly amazing followers of Desna or other gods that are level 6 but they will be very rare, either serving for royalty, or as famous Abbots or Mother Superiors of monasteries, convents etc.
  • The gods would notice their faithful at a much earlier level, either through merit of their level, or through quest based activities. The spell miracle does not exist, but the truly faithful, through prayer and petition, may be granted one by their god. This might give an unfair advantage—story based though it is—to divine casters over arcane.
  • It also means that your local priest in Sandpoint, even Magnimar and equivalent size cities are unlikely to be able to know Ritual Magic to cast a Raise Dead. This makes death more of a penalty.

Portals

  • I think portals get special mention. Plane shift, teleport and those type of spells no longer exist. So suddenly, the creation or discovery of portals become key strategic points in a kingdom. Those sites would be protected and opposing armies would seek to capture them.

  • I think it also adds a lot of flavour to the GM. If the PC’s find a portal, they are definitely going to mark it down on their maps. It becomes a key resource, particularly as the PCs grow in power.

ECONOMIC

I don’t think there would be any particular change to the economics of the setting. But perhaps I haven’t thought about it enough.

MILITARY AND LAW

Soldiers/Guards

Soldiers and guards in any town/city (even Absalom) are at most level 1 warriors. Sergeants are level 2, Captains and Sheriffs are level might be Fighter level 2 or 3. A General of an army is likely to be a level 6 fighter or paladin, and his main lieutenants might be 5, or 6 as well.

Gone are the days when the GM has to make guard duty a level 15 warrior job to make it a challenge should the PC's try to ransack the main city in a kingdom. You can just imagine that recruitment drive: Interviewer: So I need you to stand at this post all day, and I will pay you 1 gp. Will you take the job? Level 15 Warrior: Hmm, well I could singlehandedly slay a young dragon and take his entire hoard for my own...but you know I'm getting tired of all that adventuring crap, I'll take it!

Imprisonment

The head jailor of a major dungeon might be level 3 warrior or expert (rope skills, intimidate, craft (lock), etc). Anybody imprisoned in his cells (adventurer or otherwise) is likely to need outside help to escape because he knows how to keep people in. This means the PC’s, who have done the wrong thing—if they get tried and imprisoned are likely to need new characters.

In E6, gone are the days that high level PC’s get imprisoned and the GM needs to artificially level all the jailors and guards in order to keep them there.

The spell anti-magic field and permanency don’t exist in the conventional sense, so imprisoning magic users is an exercise in gagging, binding, and maybe drugging. It is likely that major dungeons would have had some ritual spells cast on certain cells to have a permanent anti-magic effect. But it certainly isn’t easy to do. Anti-magic manacles don’t exist either etc. A GM might also consider that a monster with an inherent anti-magic field might be used in certain dungeons to mimic this effect—however strange that might be.

POLITICAL

With the standard d20 system, rulers and tyrants of all types and sizes need to spend an inordinate amount of time protecting themselves from magical dangers that could hit at any time. Most PCs at level 15, could quite easily, teleport into their local royal throne room—kill the king and queen—and then exit stage left.

The main change I see in the E6 system, is that rulers and politicians of all kinds would be much more confident and open. Mayors wouldn’t necessary need an escort at all times, Kings could realistically visit local towns with a reasonable size bodyguard and not risk life and limb.

BESTIARY

This is where, as a GM, you have to decide how you will use monsters. Do you remove all CR 14+ monsters from the game? Or do you downgrade them if you really want to use them? In my experience, there are so many truly interesting monsters in the lower levels, that the PC’s often don’t get to see, because they level beyond them to quick. The E6 system is a place for these monsters to shine.

Devils and Demons could retain all their abilities and be a truly awe inspiring encounter (like they are meant to be). You might think a Balor is automatically a TPK, and likely it will be. But see this thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=160998 (sorry I have no idea how to embed this).

Random Encounters

Random Encounters will be based on terrain like normal, but you are likely to only need one random encounter table per Terrain type.

Sure, as a level 1 you would be doing a lot more running away. Is there anything wrong with that? This means that as a GM you can populate the world as it would make sense, not as to what would be a challenge to a party. As even a multitude of CR 1 kobolds, can still present an issue for a level 6 party.

Scary Encounters

Any creature 11+ will make a significant splash: “Don’t go up that mountain, Varsool is there! The red dragon of smaugness!”

A tarrasque would likely be impossible for any adventuring group to stop. it would likely require armies from multiple kingdoms to take that thing down, but even then, they are unlikely to be able to truly kill it. They would certainly need a cleric, favoured of the gods, to ask for a miracle to kill it.

Any movement of Fire Giants will mean entire towns will flee, which means your typical adventurers will have a veritable smorgasboard of clues as to what threat they are and how to overcome them.

Likewise the location of certain monsters, like Lamias, Chimera’s and the Sandpoint Devil will all be the talk in nearby towns (as they would be anyway really). Rumours will abound, adventurers from Absalom may come just to fight these etc. The Gorgon and the Medusa always stay a challenge, the PC's can't just kill a few rats, level a few times, then come back and sneeze all over them.

I see this as one of the clear advantages of the E6 system. Consider the Sandpoint Devil, so many rumours and near-sightings turn this creature into an obsession for monster hunters. In E6, you never out level the beast—no matter when you encounter it, it will be memorable. This encourages the GM to put more tension and foreshadowing on creatures like this—since that effort will never be wasted.

I remember that moment, after all the hype of a Beholder who was terrorizing a local populace. My PC’s had levelled a few times, and then—on a whim—decided to troop through its lair, setting off all the alarms on purpose etc, and then killed it in two rounds. They well over-leveled the encounter, but it was a little disappointing, even for them.

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Most of these changes aren't really changes given that 99.9% of people in Golarion are already low level per James Jacobs (see the first link in my answer...) –  mxyzplk Mar 29 '13 at 12:15
    
@mxyzplk Perhaps the blacksmith example. But the rest is very relevant in my opinion. –  dlras2 Mar 29 '13 at 19:01
    
My point is that "most guards being first level warriors..." is not a "change required for E6" - it is how Golarion already works by design. –  mxyzplk Mar 29 '13 at 21:30

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