Monday, January 26, 2015

[5e] Lost Mines of Phandelver Maps

Acriaos on /r/dnd put together this collection of maps for use with the Starter Set adventures: Lost Mines of Phandelver maps. They are cool.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Character Concepts for a Quickplay Game

Here are some fast (but interesting) character concepts that you can use to quickly bring together a new group of players, particularly folks new to the game. Let everyone pick their own names and decide their relationships, etc, but provide them with all the mechanical decisions (Race, class, background) ahead of time.

The group concept is a group of bandits/mercenaries left together at the end of a long war. Some of these were inspired by characters in the movie Kundo: Age of the Rampant.

Warrior Monk
Race: Human
Background: Soldier
Class: Monk
Alignment: Neutral Good

You served as a chaplain in the army, fighting alongside your fellow soldiers and tending to their wounds and funerals during pauses in the fighting. Because of your lifestyle, you are more rough around the edges than the typical monk, but still respect your superiors in your order.

Outcast Noble
Race: Human
Background: Noble
Class: Fighter
Alignment: Lawful Good

Your father was an aristocrat, and your mother was a village girl who died in childbirth. Your father remarried for money and prestige, and you were eventually replaced by a new noble-born heir and sent off to seek your fortune in the world. You have studied war and combat since you were tall enough to hold a sword, and naturally expect others to follow your lead.

Camp Follower
Race: Half-orc
Background: Urchin
Class: Rogue
Alignment: Chaotic good

You grew up an orphan, raised in the baggage train of an army or mercenary company, following along as it moved between garrisoned towns, frontier villages, and restless cities. You lived on what you could beg or steal, sneaking into besieged towns to find secrets to sell to the commanders and robbing the corpses of the dead. Your manners appall civilized people, and you are probably more used to running from or undermining authority than obeying it, but you grew up in an egalitarian society of orphans and beggars where the older children made sure that the younger ones got to eat.

Scout
Race: Half-elf
Background: Outsider
Class: Ranger
Alignment: Neutral Good

You grew up in the wilderness, maybe living in an isolated cabin or living in tents as you migrated between pastures and hunting grounds. From the time you could walk you were at home in the wilderness, able to live off the land as easily as most people would live in a hotel. You were hired by an army to serve as a scout, seeking out enemy camps and ambushes and finding paths through the wilderness.  You speak few unnecessary words and think civilized life is soft and boring, but you are curious about the world and enjoy meeting new people and seeing new places.

Chronicler
Race: Elf
Background: Scholar
Class: Bard
Alignment: Chaotic Good

Most who know you know of you only as an entertainer, singing songs around the campfires at night in exchange for coins and drink. The soldiers and their companions enjoy your songs, but regard you as strange and alien, unsure why one of the mythical Fair Folk has joined their number. In fact, you are far more than a mere minstrel- the full Elven name for your vocation is something like 'witness to the strife of the short-lived races'- and you regard it as something of a sacred duty to witness and record the short, passionate lives of mortal armies in story and song. Your long life grants you a unique perspective on the struggles of your companions- others regard you as cold and strange, but in truth you are stirred deeply by the struggles of those around you, a fact that emerges primarily through your music.

Changeling Messiah
Race: Gnome
Background: Folk Hero
Class: Sorcerer
Alignment: Chaotic Good

You Human parents found you hidden in a concealed nook in an abandoned village- you had clearly been placed there for your protection, but the village had been abandoned for days by the time your parents found you. Thinking at first that you were just an unusually small child, it soon became apparent that you were something very different. The people in your remote village regarded you at first with fear and mistrust, but then began to think that they had been favored by the gods when your magical powers began to develop. A cult developed in the village centered around you- you were pampered and catered to to the best of their meager ability- but once you had outlived your aging parents, you grew restless and left to seek your origins, much to the dismay of your worshipers. You are brash and used to being treated as a god, but ignorant about the ways of the wider world. You fell in with a group of mercenaries or bandits when they found you amusing and noticed that people you don't like tend to burst into flames. They treat you as a kind of mascot, trying to keep you away from the real fighting but letting you act out symbolic victories like burning the enemies banners or making enemies swear their parole oaths to you.


Friday, December 26, 2014

5e Class Summaries for New Players

The Classics

The classic D&D party consists of four classes:
  • Fighter (front-line combatant & general muscle)
  • Cleric (healer, secondary melee combatant, magical utility)
  • Rogue (ranged/opportunistic combatant, non-magical scouting and utility)
  • Wizard (ranged combatant, magical scouting and utility)
Each of these classes is very broadly defined and can be effective in pretty much any environment or situation

Cleric

In Combat: Clerics are capable combatants, able to wield many different types of weapons and armor. Traditionalist clerics employ only blunt weapons. Clerics can also offer prayers to their patron (a god, goddess, saint, or philosophical principle) to heal their friends or smite their enemies- they are particularly good at destroying the undead and other other-worldly menaces.

Out of Combat: Clerics can ask for aid from their church as long as their mission is in accordance with its principles- the church may chose to provide as much as an army or as little as a bowl and a robe depending on the worthiness of the cause, the reputation of the cleric, and their resources. Clerics can pray to their patron to heal wounds or diseases, provide food or shelter, or seek portents of the future. They also likely know the lore of their church or people.

Fighter

In Combat: You are a master of all forms of armed and unarmed combat, and adept at employing any conceivable weapon or armor that you might encounter. You can specialize in a type of fighting at which you are particularly adept, and can keep yourself alive despite significant wounds.

Out of Combat: You are well-versed in tactics and strategy- you can spot favorable terrain, defensive choke points, ambush opportunities, etc., by inspecting your surroundings. You know the customs and culture of army encampments and how to make a living as a hired sword. You are good at identifying objects that are both small and valuable.

Rogue

In Combat: You are skilled with a number of light, easily concealed melee and missile weapons, and you are particularly good at striking from concealment or when an enemy is distracted. You are comfortable in light armor, but find heavier protection too constricting.

Out of Combat: You are a master of stealth and deception, able to sneak past guards, pick locks or pockets, and disable traps and alarms. You are good at recognizing valuable loot. Your criminal background may provide opportunities to find new work or buy and sell rare or illegal goods.

Wizard

In Combat: Your more powerful spells can kill or incapacitate multiple enemies at a time. Your weaker magic can provide you with a fair chance of defending yourself at a distance. You strive to avoid melee combat at all costs- you are more likely to wear armor backwards than correctly, and likely have only basic skills with a few rather non-threatening weapons. You are prone to dying without prior warning.

Out of Combat: Your spells can pierce the boundaries of time and space in pursuit of knowledge or power. You know a wide array of magical lore that may contain arcane secrets, forgotten history, or forbidden wisdom. You spend most of your spare time studying.

The Specialists

These classes can be thought of as specialized versions of the classic four- they trade a little overall utility for versatility or excellence in a particular area. Barbarians excel at close melee combat, but have a narrow range of tactics available to them compared to fighters. Monks ecel at unarmed combat and can make decent scouts, but lack the selection of weapons, armor, and tactics of the fighter or the focused specialization of the rogue. Rangers provide extra utility in a wilderness situation at the expense of overall combat options. Sorcerers have a narrower range of spells compared to other primary spell casters, but gain some versatility. 

Barbarian:

In Combat: You are a a fierce but undisciplined opponent, throwing yourself into combat with reckless abandon. You are familiar with most weapons, but prefer to stand toe-to-toe with an opponent while wielding a huge two-handed weapon. You are particularly adept at avoiding damage while wearing little or no armor.

Out of Combat: You have keen senses that make you adept at noticing danger, like traps or an ambush. You are good at shrugging off the effects of poisons and diseases, and difficult to hold o restrain. You likely grew up in the wilderness, and are skilled at surviving both in the wilds and
among the hardened people who live there.

Monk

In Combat: You are a master of the martial arts, being as or more effective bare handed at dealing and absorbing damage as most people are cased in steel and armed to the teeth. You are highly proficient with a small selection of deceptively simple melee and thrown weapons. You are adept at performing complex maneuvers (like flips, kicks, etc.) in combat.

Out of Combat: You likely belong to an order of warrior-monks, who you can seek out for assistance, wisdom, or further training. You may also know the philosophy and lore of your order, which may contain secrets about the world. You move quickly and can make an excellent spy or scout.

Sorcerer

In Combat: You can wield only a few basic weapons and shun armor in favor of magical attack and defense. You have a narrower selection of spells, but can change them up on the fly (unlike wizards, who must prepare their spells in advance).

Out of Combat: You are charismatic and find it easy to socialize with and manipulate others. You likely know some arcane lore or the history of your patron power.

Ranger

In Combat: You are familiar with a wide range of weapons, and may specialize in a preferred form of fighting. Almost all rangers maintain some skill with bows of some type.

Out of Combat: You are at home in the wilderness, and are particularly skilled at navigating and foraging in unfamiliar terrain. You can recognize important or edible plants and animals, natural hazards, signs of animal or monster dens, and track a quarry through any imaginable terrain.

The Utility Players

These classes can fill any of a variety of roles, and are common either as '5th party members' or to fill multiple roles in a smaller party. Bards bring a mix of magic, rogue skills, and combat utility and excel in social roles. Druids blend the wilderness expertise of a ranger with the spell casting and combat abilities of a cleric. Paladins combine some of the options of the cleric and the fighter and make excellent defensive fighters.

Bard

In Combat: You are a fair fighter with blade or bow, though you are most familiar with lighter, more elegant weapons. You can turn the tide of a battle at critical moments by inspiring your companions with your words or music.

Out of Combat: You excel at getting along with strangers and making new friends- you are also good at tricking or manipulating people. You know some minor magic that can be used to entertain, distract, or deceive. You have an excellent store of old stories, rumors, legends, and dirty jokes that can be used to recall facts about your environment or gain the friendship of primitive idiots.

Druid

In Combat: You are a versatile combatant, skilled with a small selection of traditional weapons. You can cast spells that call on the natural world to aid your allies or harm your enemies in combat, including healing wounds. At higher levels, you can transform into an animal and attack. You shun metal weapons and armor as much as possible.

Out of Combat: You know a great deal about the natural world and its inhabitants, and can survive there easily without any outside support. Your spells allow you to commune with natural spirits, seek portents of the future, heal the sick, etc.

Paladin

In Combat: You are highly skilled with a wide range of weapons and armor, and are most comfortable fighting as a heavily armed and armored knight. You are skilled at fighting from horseback and battling the undead. You can heal your allies by calling upon your faith.

Out of Combat: You can detect the presence of supernatural evil, and heal your allies with your faith and prayers. You can call on other members of your faith for assistance in worthy tasks. If you are recognized as a member of a particular knightly order, you likely have a good reputation that proceeds you everywhere you go- except in evil lands, where you may be met with hostility or scorn.

Warlock

In Combat: You iz muthafucking Skelator, yo! Zap things. Then zap them harder.

Out of Combat: I think you ride a bike or something.

Seriously, I've never played a warlock. Don't know anything about them.


Sunday, December 07, 2014

Kerragor, Dwarfish God of Sanitation

Kerragor, Dwarfish God of Sanitation
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Suggested Domains: Life, Knowledge
Symbol: A stone tower or keep with a pipe on the right side discharging water.

Every clan in Dwarfish society has traditional crafts and roles that it is associated with, and most of these clannish activities have their own patron deity, usually a minor power that is worshiped only within the clan. Kerragor is one such deity.

Kerragor is the demi-god of the healthy keep. He regards the entire Dwarfhold as a single organism, and charges his clerics with ensuring its health. Clerics do this by concerning themselves with the security and purity of sources of water within Dwarfen settlements and taking charge of the disposal of all forms of organic waste. In practice: garbage and sewage.

Usually, no single clan within a hold would be trusted with both responsibilities, the provisioning of water and the management of waste being such important activities. Clerics of Kerragor usually represent both clans and conduct negotiations on behalf of the keep in sensitive situations.

Due to the importance of clean water to Dwarvish settlements, high-ranking worshipers of Kerragor often occupy senior positions of leadership within a keep, and may be given responsibilities for securing water supplies if the hold is ever besieged. Clerics of Kerragor manage rationing and cast Create Food and Water to supplement supplies as needed; paladins dedicated to Kerragor swear oaths to defend particular wells or aqueducts from invaders or attempts at sabotage.

At the lower end of the social totem pole, lower-level clerics and worshipers are usually charged with the disposal of waste generated within the keep. In addition to the practical matters of repairing pipes and disposal chutes, sanitation Dwarfs are charged with keeping waste dumps free from vermin of all kinds- rats, giant insects, and goblins being particularly common foes . The former creatures feed on the Dwarfs waste, while goblins delight in picking through Dwarven garbage for free food and 'treasure' (broken cookware, mostly). Goblin infestation of a rubbish tip is seen as a particularly shameful dereliction of duty for a worshiper of Kerragor.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Books of the Anvil - A Downtime Magic Item for 5e

The Books of the Anvil are a legendary collection of collected over the years by an unknown master
Dwarfish wizard. With typical Dwarfish ingenuity and discipline, he applied himself to cataloging magic with the same intensity of focus that a master smith would bring to a life-long masterwork.

Identifying the Books
Even to the untrained eye, this collection of 15 books (50 lbs total) appear to be of exceptional quality. Despite their antiquity, they are in exquisite condition. Each page is richly illuminated, with orderly black-on-white lettering interspersed with geometric designs and diagrams. To Detect Magic they give off an aura of mild divination and abjuration magic. Any wizard can immediately recognize that the books are all spellbooks, as can anyone making a DC 5 Arcana check. On a DC 20 Arcana check, you recognize the books as being those of a Dwarfish wizard. Anyone who knows the Dwarfish language and is of Chaotic alignment must make a DC 15 Wisdom save on first reading through the books or be blinded for 1d10 hours. Subsequent readings have no effect on a character who has been blinded, though overuse (described below) can still trigger blindness.

Using the Books
The Books of the Anvil use a highly complex magical encoding scheme to cram a seemingly impossible number of spells into 15 volumes. Unfortunately (for everyone but Dwarfs) this means that a great deal of math is needed to puzzle out the spell formulas, and a table of contents is neither included nor possible.

A wizard can chose to study the books for up to 8 hour per day. Time spent resting or adventuring does not permit proper study- the books can only be studied on 'days off', though other non-strenuous activities (buying supplies, resting and healing) can be undertaken. A wizard who attempts to study more than 8 hours in a single day becomes blind for 1d10 hours. At the end of 7 (cumulative) days of study, make a DC 15 Arcana check. On a success, the wizard has identified one spell that is stored in the book and can attempt to learn it and copy it into his spellbook as normal, paying the associated costs in time and gold. Determine the spell randomly. If the wizard chooses not to learn the spell, there is no guarantee that he will be able to figure out the encoding for that spell again- each time the wizard attempts to identify a new spell, the encoding for the previous spell is forgotten and a new spell is generated at random.






Monday, September 22, 2014

5e Goblin PCs

Ability Score Increase: Your Dexterity score increases by 2.
Age: Goblins mature faster than humans, reaching adulthood around age 10. A healthy Goblin can live to 50 or more, but rarely does.
Alignment: Goblins tend towards evil; they tend to be greedy, lazy, and selfish. They have no particular inclination towards following orders without a strong incentive to do so, but are happy for someone else to be responsible for hard decisions or dangerous tasks. As a result, they have little inclination towards either law or chaos and their most common alignment is Neutral Evil. Goblins that live among other races are capable of working within a system to get what they want, or ignore it entirely when it is convenient, tending more towards True Neutral or Chaotic Neutral.
Size: Goblins are between 3 and 4 feet tall and average about 35 pounds. Your size is Small.
Speed: You have a base walking speed of 30 feet.
Darkvision: Goblins commonly live underground, and even surface-dwelling Goblins tend to be more active at night, emerging to scavenge or raid and then laying low during daylight hours. You can see in dim light within 60 feet as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can't discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common and Goblin, which uses a crude version of the Dwarvish alphabet. Goblin is rarely written down, except in the form of graffiti which Goblins use to mark their territory and mock their enemies.
Nimble Escape: Goblins favor hit and run tactics, which they use in groups to wear down their opponents while trying to remain out of range. When an opponent targets you with a melee attack and misses, you can take the Disengage action as a reaction to move away from your attacker.
Sneaky: You are proficient in Stealth.
Sniveling: Goblins are used to being treated with contempt by those stronger than they are, which is nearly everyone. The average goblin will shamelessly lie, boot-lick, grovel, and flatter to avoid being swatted down by a boss or foe. Their ancient enemies have long realized that goblins treat mercy as a weakness, but other races either haven't caught on or don't regard goblins as worth the trouble to kill. You have advantage on Charisma checks to avoid being blamed or punished for your actions by anyone other than a Dwarf or an Elf.
Opportunistic Eater: Goblins enthusiastically eat a wide variety of foods that more civilized races turn their noses up at; they also are accustomed to having to provide for themselves in a wide variety of situations. You have advantage on Wisdom (Survival) checks to forage for food, and can forage for food anywhere- including inside dungeons and cities. At the DM's option, the food that you find may not be fit for non-goblinoids to eat!

edit: Thanks to /r/DnD for feedback- I've made a couple adjustments for balance and simplicity that were suggested there and added the 'Sniveling' feature.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Dead Run: An RPG Mashup Inspired by Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man

There are lots of rules for rule conversions. Can we make a whole new game from an existing set of rules and a rule for plot conversion?

1) Use the rules from any edition of Deadlands, or any other RPG you are familiar with that includes rules that would cover a 19th Century/Wild West era. Games with relatively high PC mortality rates are probably the better choice in a tie breaker.
2) Ignore any rules that have anything to do with magic or the supernatural when creating characters.
3) Think of a plot that would work for a Shadowrun adventure, ideally one where magic isn't completely central to the plot.  Look here for ideas if you want.
4) Perform Plot Conversion:

  • Any journey in a car, truck, or other ground vehicle of under 100 miles is made by horse over a distance that is 1/10th as far.
  • Any journey by plane or helicopter becomes a journey by train of 1/10th that distance.
  • Any international air travel becomes a boat trip that takes 10x as many days to sail as it would take hours to fly.
  • Any reference to Elves, Indians, or Metahumans becomes a reference to Native Americans, Chinese immigrants, freed slaves, etc.
  • Sprawl residents become frontiersmen, slaves, prostitutes, etc.
  • Any data, blueprints, plans, etc., become account books, ledgers, contracts, papers, etc.
  • MacGuffin's become a more efficient steam engine, repeating rifle blueprints, account and ledger books unveiling fraud, rare ore samples, priceless European art, etc.
  • Super-powerful megacorporations referenced in the plot become powerful local interests that 'own the town', can get away with anything, and employ their own hired guns. Alternately they can be aristocratic European families or East Coast banking and railroad interests.
  • All PCs and NPC still have guns on them at all times. People being shot in the street or a running gun battle in an office building probably draws a few curious onlookers and maybe a short article in the paper tomorrow, but little more.
  • Lone Star becomes local sheriffs, Texas Rangers, U.S. Marshalls, the Pinkerton Detective Agency, etc.
  • NPC Physical adepts and street samurai become martial artists, bareknuckle boxers, or gunslingers. NPC Deckers become accountants. NPC Riggers become engineers (train or mechanical). NPC mages, shamans, and intelligent magical creatures (like Dragons) become highly educated aristocrats from Europe or the East Coast.
  • Cyberware becomes conventional melee weapons like knives and axes for bodyware, or journals, libraries, and specialized assistants (translators, copyists, valets) for headware.
  • Communication by net or phone becomes letters, sometimes sent through messengers (who can be trusted not to read the letters because they are illiterate).
  • Street gangs become claim jumpers, horse rustlers, bank robbers, etc.
  • The default setting becomes a nameless county in a federal territory west of the Mississippi instead of Seattle. Travel between locations within the city becomes travel through the countryside between small towns or isolated farms.
  • DocWagon contracts become pre-paid funerals.
Anticipated Questions:
What is this?: The intent for this game is a fairly gritty and 'real-world' Wild West game with a lot of opportunity for intrigue, violence, and general murderhobo behavior. Good choice for a sandbox game, maybe. The isolation of the Wild West and the power that money and violence brought make this setting (or at least its cinematic representation) a nice giant moral void where PCs have a lot of agency.

What is...:
  • Deadlands is a supernatural Wild West game; I picked it for the rule set because the names and range of options available for character creation (and task resolution) are already rooted in the 19th Century American West. There are stats and rules for revolvers, riding horses, etc. If you squint and ignore the supernatural stuff (essentially make all PCs and NPCs mundanes), you get a theme-appropriate rule set for building cowboys, bounty hunters, gunslingers, saloon girls, whiskey priests, etc.
  • Shadowrun is a supernatural cyberpunk game set in the (semi-)near future. A product of the go-go 1980's, it's setting is very concerned with the out-of-control growth of corporations and the eventual Japanese conquest of the commercial world (recent versions may have revised this to make it a little less dated, but I haven't really paid close attention since version 2 of the rules). Players typically take on the role of 'shadowrunners', deniable corporate assets who take on missions like swiping data from a rival, protecting executives from assassination attempts, assassinating rival executives, tracking down defectors, sabotage, debt collection, etc., for organized crime figures or powerful multi-national corporations. The world of the future is a sort of libertarian dystopia where everyone goes around discreetly armed and armored, corporations can make their own laws, and commercial disagreements occasionally erupt into running gun battles in the streets.
  • Dead Man is a 1995 film written and directed by Jim Jarmusch and starring Johnny Depp. It's been described as a 'surrealist Western'. It went over Roger Ebert's head. Go watch it and see if you're smarter than he is.
What other works convey the appropriate tone?: True Grit comes to mind- the new one with the Dude, not the old one with the Duke. Maybe the old one is fine too, I haven't seen it. O Brother Where Art Thou? could work if you're interested in more humor and less killing people and taking their stuff. Most Spaghetti Westerns and their imitators will also work in a pinch if they keep the fantastic elements to a minimum (i.e., if you're thinking of Wild Wild West  or Brisco County Junior you would probably be better off playing straight up Deadlands).

Why?: I watch a lot of movies late at night.

The numbers for converting a journey from one type of travel to another are off: That isn't a question. I made the numbers up in my head. Do some Googleing and calculate better ones, or just treat them as conceptual guidelines.