Sunday, 22 March 2015

Reimagining HP for D&D 5e

(Aside: if you want to read the version of this I wrote at midnight after a session, it's on my Tumblr, here.)

I've always disliked tracking hit points for monsters, and I know that it irks my players sometimes. I've tried various methods, like poker chips or using percentile dice; but high-level characters & monsters have so many hp, and dice are liable to be knocked around. So, a solution, inspired by the Wound system from Savage Worlds.

Everyone (PC, NPC or monster) has a Wound Threshold, which is equal the average roll of your hit die and add your CON modifier (and any effects that increase your maximum hit points with level, as from the Toughness feat). Now, whenever you take damage, round it to the nearest multiple of that number. If it's x1, take 1 Wound. If it's x3, take 3 Wounds. When you take Wounds equal to your level (or number of hit dice), you start saving vs. death.

Healing works the same way. Round the number of hp healed that the cure wounds gives you, and heal that many wounds. If you take a short rest, you can heal a number of wounds; you have "healing surges" equal to your level, and regain half that number after a long rest. If you get hit by a wight, and fail the saving throw, the number of wounds you can take is reduced by the same number as you were hit for, etc.

Now, the practical effect of this is that it averages out damage taken. A solid fighter is likely to have a Wound Threshold of 8. So, if they take 4 damage, nothing happens. If they take damage between 5 and 12, they take a wound, and so on. In 5e, I've found that damage outputs are fairly high, and everyone is throwing around damage between 4 and 13 most of the time. Most monsters and most PCs have WTs in this region, so it all balances out in the long run. But wizards and sorcerers are more likely to take a couple Wounds at once, and fighters and barbarians are only rarely going to take more than one in a single hit.

To adjust the lethality of damage (because, I think, it's a bit swingier like this), you can fiddle with how you round damage. Up, down, or Swiss-style; my personal backup if Swiss doesn't work is if the damage is one or two below the Threshold, I'll round up, otherwise I'll round down. This keeps foes with piddly damage averages from constantly wounding fighters with 5 damage, while keeping wizards fragile. It'll take a bit of play-testing, I think. I mean, Ancient Dragons have d20's for hit points, so that's a WT of, like, 15, so they're going to require a LOT of HARD hits. But, then, that's kinda the point of a dragon encounter, right?

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Summoner - A Sorcerous Origin for 5e

I haven't been on here in a while. My gaming passions have changed - my systems of preference are 5e and Savage Worlds. But having played Pathfinder recently, I've still got the flavour of a couple of classes in my mind. I always appreciated the neatness of Pathfinder, especially in its improvements over 3.5. But after playing it for a few months, the complexity got to me. 5e turned up at just the right time for me, and it seemed like a veritable god-send. Savage Worlds is my catch-all for any games I want to play that aren't D&D-like.

Anyway, to the point of this post. In the wake of the release of the 5e PHB, wrathofzombie posted a whole bunch of 5e sub-class options. One of those was the Oracle. Flavour-wise, I always liked the Oracle. I also liked the Summoner. Those two, I think, are the two flavour-ful classes that aren't really represented in 5e. So, with the Oracle in good hands, I decided to hack the Summoner for 5e. Here we go.

The Summoner - A Sorcerous Origin for 5e. (PDF, hosted on Google)

Friday, 25 July 2014

What happens while the PCs are on watch

Whenever my PCs stop for camp, they always organise a watch roster. Magic-users and clerics usually take the last watch, and the person with the most hit points takes the middle. There's usually some negotiation to stop the thief from being on watch alone (or at all). It's all very organised these days.

Behind the screen, I'm really just making stuff up. If I'm not planning on an encounter, nothing happens. If I am, I'll fiddle with some dice until I make up my mind whether or not to spring it on them. But after a session today (with newbies - they were so much fun!), I've finally come up with a table to determine whether or not something interesting happens in the night.

Roll 1d4 if the party is camped in quiet or peaceful territory, 1d6 if it's normal territory, 1d8 if it's rough country, and 1d10 (or higher...) in the deep wilderness.

Night Watch Encounters

  • 1-3: nothing to report.
  • 4-5: minor disturbance (heavy rustling, lights, bats, etc.)
  • 6-7: minor encounter
  • 8+: major encounter
Roll separately for each watch (if you're feeling nasty), or if you roll something, roll 1d6 to determine which watch it occurs on (1-2: first, 3-4: middle, 5-6: last).

[This is the first post I've made in a while here... Not that anyone reads this blog anyway, apart from one of my players.]

Thursday, 13 June 2013

The Siege of Barros!

Finally! I'm back to DMing. As much as I enjoy playing, I really love being behind the screen. So, in celebration of my first game in some time, I decided to make a solid attempt to kill the entire party. By declaring war.

Today's Cast:
  • Calorath, a pious cleric. (missed the end of Session 1)
  • Fain, a murderer and worker of shadows.
  • Acuâmaân, Elvish sell-sword.
  • Cedric Kain, a powerful veteran. (Session 2)
  • Flynn Rider, a troubled ranger. (Session 2)
  • Devan Bast, wanderer and sorcerer. (mine, relegated now to NPC)
Our heroes woke to strange sounds, and found that the docks of the city were burning, a dragon was breaking the bridges, and a strange ward had been placed around the wizard's guild. Without a clue as to what was going on,our heroes immediately attempted to free the wizards. The ward, it was determined, badly damaged whatever was thrown through it. Acuâmaân tried to use his helm of blinking to jump through the ward, but he was repelled, and chilled to the bone. They realised that they would need more resources than they had available, and so went to find them, and to do a little reconaissance.

From Devan's flying carpet, they could see that the city was surrounded: a massive host, with humongous beasts, had camped to the north. To the south was a smaller host: not much of a threat, in itself, but enough to prevent any evacuation. Enemy forces were also trying to dam the river below the city, evidently trying to provide passage for the greater host.

Before they could do anything else, a flight of wyverns approached from the north. Wasting no time, our heroes decided to go into action, and engage them. Fain jumped onto the back of one wyvern, and wrestled with one of its gnoll riders to sieze control of the box it was clutching. Cedric leapt onto another wyvern, and began murdering its riders. Acuâmaân, wielding a bow against the riders, was attacked by the wyverns, and suffered great wounds. Fain kicked the gnoll from the back of the wyvern, and returned to the carpet with his prize. Cedric, on the other hand, found that his now-riderless wyvern was veering away. He tried once more to kill it, but decided to take his chances and jump when it got close to the ground. The crew on the carpet picked him up, and rejoined Calorath on the ground near the temple.

Here, it was announced that Lord Sayle was holding an open meeting of strategy. Our heroes made their way to the Lord's island fortress where the court was being held. Lord Sayle announced that he had been issued an ultimatum: the city was to surrender by noon, or it, and all its inhabitants, would be razed. So Lord Sayle appointed the party as the city's general-purpose first-strike team. Their mission was: to free the wizards, to take out the dam (to stop the southern host from being reinforced), to remove the southern host (to allow evacuations), and finally to help Lord Sayle lead the charge against the northern troops and their ferocious beasts.

Highlights of the session included:
  • Acuâmaân knocking himself out while trying to shoot a gnoll.
  • The southern host was easy enough that the party could probably have killed them all by themselves.
  • Fain and Acuâmaân managed to get themselves on the back of the red dragon, and stabbing it in mid-air, and then slitting its throat. Acuâmaân had his helm of blinking... Fain was not so lucky. And he lost his +3 dagger because, well, dragon blood is hot.
  • Calorath's player finally made a saving throw versus a fear spell!
  • Dinosaurs are tough to kill. Lots of hid dice.
  • In the final fight with Lord Ishtuar, a gold/red dragon hybrid, a few characters came very close to death (especially Acuâmaân). But none of them actually died. So, in that respect, I failed.
  • Lots of XP from monsters and loot. Everyone levelled up, except Cedric, who levelled a session or two ago.
Some Thoughts
(1) Dragons are really hard to use in encounters. Their breath weapon, whether you use straight-hp, or a number of dice, is almost guaranteed to produce a character death. But if you give a few characters the chance to properly melee them for a few rounds, it's all over for the dragon (as it is for most any monsters).
(2) We had a lot of awesome moments in these two sessions. Most of them involved flying things. I should use flying things more often.
(3) I had some nice NPCs all prepared that never showed up. I'll have to make sure they turn up later.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Undead, and more Undead!

Today's Cast
  • Fain, a shadowy stalker of the night (Illusionist/Assassin)
  • An as-yet-unnamed cleric from the Barros temple
  • Flynn Rider, a ranger with a troubled past
 This session, the players went deeper into the tombs (for the map, check out Dyson Logos' Medusa's Chasm [SPOILERS FOR MY PLAYERS]). Last week, they were standing in a room littered with bones (almost knee-high). This week, the bones began to rise up and attack as skeletons, so the PCs moved on. Still avoiding the room full of skeletal scorpions, they dealt with some zombies, scared away a wraith, and a massive super-zombie with gold plate and a +2 greatsword.

After very cautiously crossing the rickety bridge over the chasm, the party found their way to a large chamber with huge zombie pits. A vampire (dubbed "Many", for reasons I've forgotten) demanded that the party surrendered. Predictably, there was a massive fight, with many hp and XP lost, and temporary negative levels given (a la 3.5, as we've all gotten sick of PCs actually losing levels). Eventually, the party beheaded and staked Many, and found the treasure under his coffin. It was a good haul, and Flynn finally levelled up.

My house rule for new characters is that they come in at the bottom of the party's lowest level (with multi-classed characters having the total XP of an equivalent fighter split between the classes). After over a year of scraping along at level 6, the party has finally all made it to level 7, to much joy and happiness.

On the down side, nearly two years of weekly DMing has worn at me. Once the Horn of Tirea is found, we're going to take a break from this campaign, and try something new. I offered to GM some sci-fi, but one of the players has taken an interest in Star Wars: Edge of Empire from FFG, so he's going to take us through the beginning adventures, and we'll see where that goes.

[EDIT: the following was in my drafts folder for AGES, so I decided I would add it here, to the previous session report, rather than make a new post over a year later.]

We've had the last session of the Dragon Hunters campaign for at least the next few months. The party also came as close as they ever have to a TPK.

First, on the bridges over the pit, they encountered a pair of DOOMBATS!!!! (which I've been dying to use to a while). Next, they took some time to finish off one section of the dungeon (the skeletal scorpions hanging out around the vampire's den). Then it was time for the moment they'd all been dreading: facing the demon.

They spent a good half-an-hour discussing exactly what they were going to do. The cleric steadfastly kept out of the conversation, mostly on religious grounds. Then it was mostly back-and-forth between the others for a while over who would get to turn the key and claim the demon's prize. Eventually, Fain (assassin/illusionist) just went and did it. Everyone waited with baited breath, fearing that the demon would go back on his word (he is a demon, after all), but, being bound by an archon, he had no choice. Fain got his Cloak of Night, the demon was free to go his evil way, and the party was pointed in the direction of the Horn (the secret door was beneath the placewhere the demon was chained, so there was no way they could find it without dealing with the demon in some way).

The steps below the arena led deep, deep, deep. It took the party about 4 hours to get to the bottom, leading them to wonder if the demon hadn't screwed them over anyway. But eventually, they found the bottom: an ancient complex, half-flooded with dank water, that led out into the Roots of the World, and thereafter the Sea of Night (as per the clues they'd found). Making their way through the complex, the party got attacked by tentacle-eye monsters. As they sailed through the Roots of the World, their boat was ambushed by the big-daddy version. In this fight, all manner of bad things happened. The d12 damage from each of the four tentacles, combined with the paralysis effect, and general bad rolling from the party, led to one character unconscious and bleeding, two paralysed, and one on exactly 1hp (and that after almost dropping his +2 greatsword over the side). But they found the Horn of Tirea, guarded by some (strangely dormant) devil archons, and escaped the dungeon alive.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

A Demon in the Room

The PCs have explored much of the Deeps now. The latest session has mostly been an attempt to see where the few unexplored passages go. So far, all the options they have are: a bridge, on the other side of which is (allegedly) a Drow city; a pair of tunnels full of spider-webs, that probably don't go very far; a cave owned by massive Fowl Trolls, one of which is still paralysed (and probably dead) from a previous encounter; and the place the PCs are exploring now, which seems to be a haven of undead (at least, there's scimitar-weilding zombies, a room full of bones, and skeletal scorpions, so it's a safe bet).

Oh, yeah, and there's a demon who says that he is the only one who can help them find the Horn. According to him, he was bound by Tirea, the holy being who made the Horn in the first place. If the PCs unbind him (with a key they found), he will not only give them the location of the Horn, but grant a boon to the one who turned the key. Oh, let the in-party fighting begin.

The party cleric has been promised the true name of the demon's son, who just happens to be one of the Ten (the demons that are being summoned to bring forth Ragnarok). The illusionist/assassin has been offered the Cloak of Night, a mantle which will allow the wearer to pass "unseen, unheard, unfelt through the night". The ranger has been offered a lead towards someone who wronged him badly in his past. And the fighter (when he returns) will be offered the resurrection of his fighting dog, who died the last time he was here to crystal scorpions.

The players I live with reckon that the cleric's offer is the best for the party as a whole, but since it's the cleric, he won't be the one to turn the key. The Cloak of Night is probably the next-best one, but the fighter really loves (loved) his dog, so it won't be an easy sell. Blood will probably be shed over this. The players have called me evil.

They're right. Muahahahaha!!!!!

Saturday, 5 January 2013

It's been a while since I made a post of any sort. Thought I'd catch you up on what the party's been doing lately.

They're hunting for the Horn of Tirea, a holy artefact designed to battle demons--even destroy them utterly, if their true name is known. The dungeon it is contained in is a deep series of levels, around a deep, potentially bottomless pit.

In one area, the party encountered heavy resistance from a lot of Drow, and learned that there is an entire Drow city down there, on the other side of a Khazad-Dum style bridge. In the first encounter with the Drow, I totally forgot to apply their magic resistance, so they all got fireballed to death. Every fight after that, though, ended up being fairly skin-of-their-teeth escapes for the party, except for the last one, in which the Illusionist/Assassin PC was totally awesome. First, he sneaked up behind the Drow leader while she was praying with her armour off, and backstabbed her to nearly dead (with the d30 rule), then let loose on the rest (still resting in their barracks) with a Wand of Ice, rolling nearly maximum on the spell penetration. One small negotiation (admittedly at the fangs of some giant spiders), and the Drow fled, leaving their loot behind.

In another area, there are crumbling corridors and collapsed rooms. Open-air cells look out over the pit, and the players have found what appears to be a subway system. At the top of the deeps, the dungeon was a dwarven mine, but now the architecture has changed dramatically, and there's ancient writing all over. Oh yeah, and in an arena in the centre, there's a chained demon who says that he knows where the Horn is. Whoever unchains him, he'll tell them how to find the Horn, and also give them their greatest desire. It took a while, but I finally have something for all the PCs. Now, if they decide to deal with the demon (which the cleric is very much against), I can watch them all fight for who gets to do the deed.

In other news, I've been working with a generic RPG called LORE (available here), outfitting it for use in a sci-fi campaign I plan to run someday. LORE is quite a lot like GURPS, but simpler, with elements from other RPGs thrown in. There's no sci-fi sourcebook, so I shamelessly ripped off Stars Without Number, GURPS Space, d20 Future, and whatever else I could find. I hope it ends up being palatable. I would have been fine with SWN, but I think the guys want a change from the D&D system. The only problem is that, now that I've finished it, it's probably going to be months (if not years) before the current campaign ends. *sigh*