5e Basic DMG PDF

August 14, 2014

I gave the new Basic DMG PDF a quick look through.  It weighs in at about 60 pages, and contains a decent selection of monsters, some common NPCs (thankfully in a separate section, so they aren’t mixed in with the monsters) and a few magic items.  There’s also a few pages on building encounters, though no guidance on how much treasure to give.  Between the two PDFs you ought to be able to run a ‘basic’ game of 5e now.

One neat thing, certain powerful monsters can have Legendary actions and Lair actions.  These are additional actions the monster can take under certain circumstances.  For example, an Adult Red Dragon can make a wing attack after another character completes an action; likewise, the dragon can use special ‘Lair’ actions while in its lair, such as magma eruptions or clouds of noxious gas (while the game expresses this as an action taken by the dragon, it is perhaps better to think of them as environmental effects of the dragon’s preferred habitat).  This is a neat way to represent the awesome power of a powerful dragon, like Smaug.

According to the basic rules, characters can now ‘auto’ detect magic items, and determine how they work with just a short rest.  Definitely not happy about that, but it’s something easy to change with a house rule.

Some items require attunement to use (such as Gauntlets of Ogre Power, for example), and a character can only use 3 attuned items at a time.  This is a neat, simple way to limit the number of items a character can use, though I’m sure the full DMG will change it (when it’s released in a couple of months).

And for what’s it worth, the new version of the Player’s PDF just seems to add Forgotten Realms deities and factions.  There may be some other corrections and changes buried in the text, but I haven’t given it a thorough lookover.

New 5e PDF Downloads

August 14, 2014

You probably already know about this, but I need some blogging fodder, so here it is:  WotC released a second version of the Basic 5e D&D Player’s PDF, and a new Dungeon Master’s PDF.  You can get them both here.

Haven’t read them yet, but I probably will later today.  Cheers.

Pathfinder Sorcery & Super Science

August 12, 2014

I’ve had an opportunity to look over three of Paizo’s new campaign books that introduce science-fiction concepts to Pathfinder.  The books in question are: 1) The Numeria campaign guide, 2) People of the Stars and 3) the Technology Guide.  For the most part I think these books can be used with the Beginner Box with minimal work, so I’m not planning on doing a PFBB conversion for any of them.

The Numeria campaign setting introduces a new area of Golantha(sp?) where a giant space ship crashed eons ago, depositing advanced technology all over the place.  It’s a solid Sorcery & Super Science setting for those who want to play a science-fantasy flavored version of Pathfinder.  It offers up new sci-fi themed monsters (i.e. robots, cyborgs), rules for radiation, a mutant monster template that could probably be converted into a PC race fairly easily, and some interesting settings.  However, it lacks information on actual technological items and the adventure locations, while evocative, are not ready made for running adventures (I assume the Iron Gods adventure path will fill in the blanks).

People of the Stars is more suitable for running a Spelljammer version of Pathfinder, though it does provide rules for an Android player-character race.  It’s more fantasy-in-space than science-fantasy.

PFTechGuideThe most interesting book, to me at least, is the Technology Guide.  It provides the missing technological items for the Numeria setting, and provides additional rules for cybernetics, artificial intelligences and new feats, skill uses, archetypes and the Technomancer prestige class.  It’s also a great resource for running a straight-up post apocalyptic Gamma World-esque flavor of Pathfinder (in other words, the Omega Box project I’ve been working on since, well, forever), or even a Pathfinder flavored version of Shadow Run.  One thing I really like is that technology, while superficially similar to magic in many respects, still has its own niche.  Paizo didn’t take the easy path and just model all the tech off of existing spells or magic items.


Most of the tech weapons are fairly inline with standard weapons, though they have additional concerns, such as requiring power to operate (also, timeworn items can glitch, though this is additional complexity I’d rather not deal with).  For example, a laser pistol does 1d8 fire damage.  It also has a few other twists to make it unique, but overall a laser pistol isn’t too much more powerful than a revolver or standard magic weapon.

Heavy weapons have more punch, and the Death Ray is just nasty, but for the most part you don’t have to worry too much about tech weapons outshining normal weapons.


As with weapons, armor is not significantly more protective than standard armor.  The main difference comes with special functions: Chameleon armor, for example, provides a Stealth bonus; HEV armor protects against radiation and toxins; Space Suits protect against vacuum; etc.  But you won’t find a suit of super-duper battle armor that grants a +12 AC bonus but only counts as light armor.  Again, everything fairly balanced inline with magical armor, but still with its own niche.


You might think pharmaceuticals would just be a high tech version of a potion, but again Paizo avoided just a copy-and-paste of potions.  Pharmaceuticals have unique roles, different from potions.  For example, you’ll find a drug that grants a Fast Healing effect, but you won’t find one that acts just like a potion of healing.


Reading this section gave me flashbacks to Shadow Run, and with a bit of work you could create a workable fantasy-cyberpunk flavor of Pathfinder, if you’re so inclined.  Each implant takes up a specific body location and has an Implant value.  The total value of all implants cannot exceed the character’s Constitution score or their Intelligence score (reflecting both physical and mental limitations of the body’s ability to control cybernetics).  Also, implanting cybernetics is a fairly risky and arduous process that causes Constitution ability damage, so it’s not for the faint-hearted.

I think this section could be used to add an interesting Cyborg class/race option to a post-apoc version of the game, but it felt a bit too much like chrome-and-polish cyberpunk for my tastes.  But, YMMV.


So, for my purposes, there’s a lot of interesting information here for the Omega Box project.    The android race is an excellent addition, and I can use the cybernetic rules to work up a workable cyborg ‘race’ option.  I’m also thinking of ditching the random mutations and using the rather elegant Mutant monster template as the basis for mutant characters.  And there are plenty of useful technological artifacts that can be thrown into the game.

However, I think I’d like to stick with the ridiculously high-powered tech weapons from Omega World (Jonathan Tweet) rather than Pathfinder’s scaled-down, balanced weapons.  It just seems more appropriate for the beer-and-pretzel style game I want.  Also, the radiation rules seem more fiddly than I want to deal with, and the rules for timeworn technology need a lot of streamlining as well, IMO.


Exertion Points

August 7, 2014

knightsfightingSo, another rambling idea I just had, so I’m kind of thinking out loud here (so to speak).  I recently finished Bernard Cornwell’s  excellent book Agincourt, which prompted some thoughts about the reality of medieval(ish) melee combat and, more to the point, exhaustion in combat (especially on the muddy fields of Agincourt) and how such applies to D&D.

Most editions of D&D have one or more rules about exertion, exhaustion and what not.  OD&D, for example, requires a party to rest 1 turn for every 5 turns spent exploring, or suffer a -1 penalty to all checks.  I vaguely recall AD&D having a rule about being able to sustain melee combat for a number of rounds equal to a character’s Constitution score before suffering penalties for exhaustion (a rule we never really used, I should add).

Most of the time I simply ignore these kind of rules and just play the game.  However, I can see a style of game that is very much focused on the details and minutia of dungeon exploration:  resource management, time management, mapping, lighting, etc. and, of course, exhaustion.

So, as a simple way to track exhaustion, each character is given a number of tokens equal to their Constitution score, representing the character’s stamina.  Players surrender one of their character’s exertion tokens every turn spent exploring.  Worse, they surrender a token every round of combat.  Resting for a short period (1 turn?  1 hour?  not sure on this) restores the character’s tokens.

A character unable to surrender a token is exhausted and suffers a significant penalty:  at least -2, but maybe even -4, to stress the importance of resting and recovering one’s strength, especially after battle.  Of course, resting eats up time, bringing more wandering monster checks and the possibility of sudden death with little reward.

You can also play around with the mechanic a bit, for example fighting in mud costs 2 tokens per round of combat.  Also, spells could drain or restore tokens, or special attacks could reduce exertion tokens instead of hit points, etc.

I wouldn’t use such a system in every campaign, but it could play an interesting role in a gritty game of lethal dungeon exploration where mapping, lighting and tracking every resource is vitally important to survival.

Thoughts, idea, suggestions, questions all welcome.  Cheers.

Braunstein Style Games

August 4, 2014

I’ve only recently discovered an old school, pre-RPG style of game called a ‘Braunstein.’  Braunsteins sort of bridge the gap between table top miniatures wargames (think Chainmail) and modern role-playing games.  They are typically set up as scenarios with multiple factions and often many players per faction.  Each faction has its own agenda or goal and then competes or cooperates with other factions to meet those goals.

There’s usually a large play area set up, lots of miniatures (though not as many as a typical wargame) and a neutral GM to adjudicate rules and try to manage the chaos as much as possible.  While miniatures and combat is involved (much like a skirmish level miniatures game), players are encouraged to wheel-and-deal to further their faction’s agenda (kind of like a game of Diplomacy).  Also, the emphasis is on keeping things simple so that the game doesn’t bog down, always a plus in my book.

This is a fascinating style of play to me, and I’d love to run a Braunstein someday…whenever I have enough space to accommodate it, and provided a could interest enough players.  I’m already envisioning a post-apocalypse scenario with ragged bands of mutants skirmishing over advanced relic technology, and a more ambitious, ongoing kingdom-level campaign.

If you’d like more information, there’s a series of blogposts on Braunsteins at Chirine’s Workbench, the first of which is available here.


Guardians of the Galaxy

August 4, 2014


What are you reading this for?  Go see Guardians of the Galaxy…right now!

Yes, it’s that good.



July 31, 2014

herculesSo, saw the Hercules movie today.  I went in expecting an enjoyable, if not great, action film.  What I got was actually better than I thought.

On one level Hercules clocks in as a fairly predictable, formulaic Hollywood action film.  However, I really liked the film’s take on the “legend” of Hercules, and in my view this helps the movie step up a bit.  The film is essentially about how heroes are made and legends are born.

It struck me that, in some respects, this movie’s version of Hercules is very much like a typical D&D adventurer:  down-and-out murder-hobo who one day becomes a great hero by dint of luck and skill (and some good PR).  I don’t want to say too much more than that because it might ruin some of the fun for you.

In my opinion Hercules is at least worth the price of a matinee ticket, but if you have your doubts then be sure to catch it on Netflix, Redbox or your discount movie source of choice.

Now I feel like trying some Mazes & Minotaurs.  Cheers.

Mad Max: Fury Road

July 28, 2014

Needles at the Swords & Stitchery Blog brought this to my attention:  the first trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road.

1) It’s nice to see the last of the V-8 Interceptors again, even if only for a few minutes.

2) It’s weird not seeing Mel Gibson as Mad Max.

3) There’s some criticism that it looks “Michael Bay-ish,” and it sort of does.  None-the-less, I’m excited about the new Mad Max movie.  I’m looking forward to this one.


ABC’s of Scavenging, Pt. 2

July 23, 2014

You can read Part 1 here.

Something I forgot to mention in Part 1, ideally bits and pieces of salvage would be represented by cards, which can then be mixed and matched by the players with (hopefully) minimal fuss.  Also, the idea is to cycle through salvage cards at a steady pace.  The PC’s items should break down, and either be repaired with new salvage or replaced with completely new items using a steady supply of cards.

Also, the system is designed with something like Swords & Wizardry Whitebox in mind, where all weapons do 1d6 damage.


Weapon’s are classified by a stat called Weapon Class (WC – term I’m borrowing from old school Gamma World).  Each point of Weapon Class adds +1 to hit and damage (think magic weapon bonus).  So, just a base (B) weapon has a WC of 1.  Each additional piece of salvage added (A, C, D and/or E) increases WC by 1, to a max of +5.

However, when attacking, a result on the d20 roll equal to or less than the weapon’s WC means the weapon is damaged.  The player chooses one of the enhancements that breaks, fails, runs out of ammo, etc.  Obviously, the player will pick an A, C, D or E salvage over a base (B) salvage (otherwise, if the B item breaks, the whole weapon falls apart).

Example:  A character has an M-4 Carbine (B salvage).  Right now it’s essentially a club.  But they have some ammo (Consumable) for it as well, and a scope (Attachment).  The PC also welds on an improvised bayonet (Extra), and adds a touch of bling for style (Detail).  Now the weapon is WC 5, adding +5 to attack and damage rolls.  Should the player roll a 1 – 5 on a d20 when attacking, one of the pieces of salvage breaks (player’s choice).  If the player chooses the Base item, then the whole weapon breaks (because you always need a B item), so the player would probably choose to loose the A, C, D or E salvage instead.


As you’d probably guess, each piece of salvage increases Armor by 1.  At this point I’m undecided whether each +1 increases Armor Class (in the traditional D&D sense), or acts more as damage reduction.  I think it’d work well enough either way.

When attacked, if the attacker gets a Natural 20, one piece of salvage breaks off the armor, reducing its effectiveness.  Again, the owning player gets to choose which piece, and probably should pick A, C, D or E salvage over a Base item.


Tools could work in one of two ways, depending on your system:  1) each piece of salvage added to an item grants +1 on a relevant d20 skill roll over a target DC (the D20 mechanic); 2) each piece grants an X-in-6 chance of success at a relevant task (OD&D style).  Again, tools could break down on a bad roll, as weapons and armor above.


Compounds work a little differently.  They are made by combining only Consumable salvage, effectively representing one-use “potions.”

A minimum of three Consumables have to be combined to create a compound.  When any three Consumables or combined, roll to determine the result on the Lesser Compounds table.  Record the result, as this now becomes a permanent recipe in the campaign and can be replicated any time the PCs combine the same Consumables.

Combining four Consumables permits a roll on the Greater Compounds table, and 5 Consumables allows a roll on the Forbidden Compounds table.

Compound results include things like healing effects, toxins and anti-toxins, mutagens, various explosive compounds and the like.

At the GM’s discretion, the initial roll for a new recipe can be kept secret until the PCs have a chance to experiment with the new compound to see what it does; death and hilarity ensues. :)




Action Initiative

July 20, 2014

So, this is just  a musing I’ve had for an alternative initiative system.  This system would probably work best using OD&D or Swords & Wizardry:

Roll 1d6 for initiative, without DEX modifiers.  Players roll separately for their characters; the GM rolls for monsters/NPCs in groups.

High result goes first.  Ties default to the PCs; ties amongst the PCs are resolved as desired between players.  Note that a character’s actions are never resolved simultaneously with another character’s actions.

The result of the initiative roll is also the number of Action Points a character has to spend for the round.  Action Points must be spent the round they’re generated; they cannot be carried over to the next combat round.  Also, a character must use all their AP when it is their turn to act in the initiative sequence; they cannot, for example, spend an AP, wait for another PC to spend an AP, and then spend another AP.

Under certain circumstances, the GM may apply a -1 penalty to the initiative roll, typically when a group is caught unawares (such as the first round of an ambush, though could also be applied to characters who are stunned or dazed).  If this results in an initiative score of 0, the character is too surprised or dazed to act that round.  This is the only modifier that should ever be applied to an initiative roll.

Every action costs 1 Action Point:

  • Move – Fast characters move 10′ (2 spaces), slow characters (heavily armored) move 5′ (1 space) per move action
  • Attack – A quick, unmodified attack; character does not apply their Attack or Ability bonuses to the roll (though penalties may still apply); I’m inclined to not place a limit on attack actions each round
  • Aim – Each sequential Aim action grants a cumulative +1 bonus to one attack roll; aim bonus is lost if the character takes another action before taking an attack action; not yet decided if there should be an aim bonus cap or not
  • Defense – Each sequential Defense action grants a cumulative +1 bonus to AC until you act again on the following combat round
  • Draw – Draw a weapon or item from inventory
  • Use – Using a device or item drawn from inventory; pushing a button, pulling a level, quaffing a potion
  • Cast – Casting a spell requires a number of sequential casting actions equal to the spell’s level (i.e. Magic Missile only requires 1 casting action; Fireball requires 3 casting actions)
  • Hold – Hold an action until a specified trigger event occurs; holding effectively ends a character’s actions for the round

The idea is that most actions should only require 1 AP, so as to avoid creating a long laundry list of actions and associated AP costs.  Also, avoid adding lots of initiative modifiers, to keep the numbers of AP per round manageable.

So, this system provides greater granularity, and allows players to do some interesting things.  For example, they could opt to make several swift, unmodified attacks, or opt to aim for a few seconds and make one well-timed attack.  They can also opt to go full defensive for a round, granting a nice bonus to their AC until the next time they act.

I haven’t quite figured out how to handle a few details yet.  For example, is attacking with a bow 1 attack action, or would drawing an arrow to fire the bow again also count as an action?  In which case, how long should it take to reload a crossbow in this system?

Also, how do each class’ inherent Attack Bonus tie in?  Maybe change Attack Bonus to an Aim Bonus:  All classes start with a +1 Aim Bonus for each aim action, but maybe as Fighter’s progress their Aim Bonus improves to +2, then +3, and so on?

Finally, this system roughly doubles the average number of actions monsters can take each round.  Even the lowliest goblin could potentially get 6 basic, unmodified attack rolls per combat round; that would be absolutely devastating to a poorly defended low-level character (such as a magic-user).  A couple of options:  the GM can cheese things a bit and just assume monsters use the bulk of their AP on aim or defense actions; alternatively, the GM can halve the number of monsters encountered to account for each monster taking, on average, twice as many actions.

Thoughts, ideas and suggestions are appreciated.  Cheers.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 32 other followers

%d bloggers like this: