Posts Tagged ‘Dungeons & Dragons’

OD&D Links

November 23, 2016

The Outdoor Survival Map, Hexographer Edition

My friend Randy (TotalGMKills) sent me an email a few days ago regarding The Original D&D Setting by Wayne Rossi (Semper Initiativus Unum), an analysis of OD&D’s wilderness rules as applied to the Outdoor Survival Map.  I had already read Mr. Rossi’s PDF (indeed, I read it again the other day), but I was inspired to assemble as many OD&D related links as I could find: materials, resources and inspirations.

So, here it is, in no particular order:

No doubt there are things I’ve missed, probably even obvious things that I’ll later feel like an idiot for not having included in the first place.  So, as I find new OD&D related material, I’ll add links to it here.  I may eventually create a separate page on the blog for this list if it generates any interest.

I hope you’ve found this interesting and useful.  If you think of anything that should be added, feel free to comment and I’ll check it out.  Thanks, and cheers!

WotC Releases 5th Edition SRD & OGL

January 12, 2016

On the off chance you haven’t seen it elsewhere already, here’s the link:

They’re also offering something called “Dungeon Masters Guild.”  Not having really looked into it yet, it sounds like a way for people to sell 5E material through WotC.

So, I wonder if there’ll be a 5E version of Pathfinder?  Also, I wonder if the 5E OGL can be legally combined with the 3E OGL to, say, meld aspects of the PFBB and 5th Edition?

It’ll be interesting to see what third party publishers do with the 5E rules.


5th Edition Mutations

October 6, 2014

5theditionmutationsThe following is a first pass at a list of mutations using 5th Edition D&D rules for a post-apocalypse setting.  Most of the mutations are beneficial, some are detrimental and a few are just benign.  Many are combed from monster and class abilities already present in the PHB and MM, others are inspired by other sources and a few I made up myself.

Please note, I’ve made no attempt to balance these mutations; some are vastly superior to others.  It’s not really intended that you slap these mutations onto standard 5th Edition characters, though you can certainly do so if you wish.  I may (or may not) eventually roll this out to a more fleshed-out PA setting…well see.

Here you go:  5th Edition Mutations



Legendary Monsters for Swords & Wizardry (or other old school games)

September 5, 2014

Inspired by legendary monsters from 5th Edition D&D:



A “legendary” monster has a number of Legend points equal to its Hit Dice.  One Legend point may be spent to take one discreet action immediately after a PC has completed his/her actions.  Specific examples include (but are not limited to):

  • Move
  • Attack
  • Cast a spell
  • Use a special ability
  • Use a magic item
  • Retrieve an item
  • Activate a device
  • Yell out for help/summon reinforcements

Note that not every big monster is a ‘legendary’ monster.  Such status should be reserved for special monsters, such as ancient dragons, vampire masters, named demons and devils and the like.

New Player’s Handbook

August 27, 2014

phbIf you’ve read the free basic PDFs for 5th Edition and didn’t like it, well there’s nothing in the new PHB that will change your mind.  It basically just adds a few new races, several new classes, and feats.

I do like the way feats are handled.  5th Edition feats are more robust, more like plugging in optional class abilities as compared to the relatively fiddly, minor tweaks granted by 3E/4E/PF feats.  Of course, you get far fewer feats in 5E than you do in previous iterations.

But if you can live without the extra bells-and-whistles (or just don’t like 5E) there’s no reason you need to pick up the PHB.


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.

Outdoor Survival Map

July 16, 2014

I’ve (re)created a version of the old school Outdoor Survival map using Hexographer.  Here’s a .png version:


And here’s the Hexographer file, for those who have the program and want to play around with the map: outdoorsurvivalmap (not sure if this file works with the free version of Hexographer).

The crossed swords can represent special encounters, monster lairs or mini-dungeons.

My intention is to modify the basic Outdoor Survival map for different settings/genres, but I wanted to have a ‘pure’ version of the map to work off of.

Also, please note the map is not perfect.  My counting was off and the last column of hexes is missing on the eastern-most edge of the map.  From what I can tell, Hexographer doesn’t have a way to add rows or columns to an existing map, and I didn’t feel like starting over from scratch for a single column.  I can live with it; I hope you can, too.


Bounded Accuracy

July 15, 2014

You can read about the concept of Bounded Accuracy here, straight from the Wizard’s mouth (so to speak).

That article was written a couple of years ago, but I’ve only just recently heard the term “Bounded Accuracy.”  It’s fair to say, I think, that Bounded Accuracy is the foundational design philosophy behind the core of 5 Edition D&D.  In short, the idea is to flatten the power curve, with advancement in character level (including monsters) being reflected by increased hit points, damage output and additional abilities, rather than ever increasing “to-hit” numbers and skill ranks.  The result being a more consistent power gradient in the game, allowing low-level/low-skill characters to still have a decent shot of doing “stuff,” without artificially increasing difficulty to keep up with the steadily increasing power curve.  Likewise, low-level monsters remain a threat to high-level PCs (though you’d need throw more monsters at them).

Having read the Wizard’s article, I have a new found respect for the underlying design philosophy behind 5e, even if I disagree with some of the individual outcomes of that design.  It’s a design principle I can really get behind, as I’m all for reduced power curves, which generally promotes the type of lighter, faster gameplay that I enjoy.

It also explains why hit points and damage output have been increased so much in 5e, which is one of my major “dislikes” about the game.  The OSR versions of this concept that I’ve read about managed to flatten the power curve without significantly inflating hit points or damage, so I wonder if it could be achieved with 5e.  Could a fix be as easy as just using d6 for all damage and hit point rolls, ala 0e?  Or would it entail far more work?  I’m not sure, but it could make for an interesting experiment.

As an aside,  this isn’t an entirely new concept.  Some OSR designers have been using the idea of a significantly flattened power curve for years now, though they didn’t call it “Bounded Accuracy.”

A Few Things I Don’t Like About 5th Edition

July 9, 2014

All right, I’ve given 5e some love, but it’s hardly perfect, particularly considering my preference for lighter rules sets.  So here are a few things I don’t like about 5e:

The biggest issue for me, I think, is that the monster stat blocks still haven’t really shrunk all that much.  I know it’s too much to expect them to go back to the days when a stat block could be represented by a single line (AC 5, HD 2, HP 7, MV 12, Morale 7, etc, etc.).  However, despite dropping two forms of Armor Class, and not incorporating anything like CMB/CMD, 5e stat blocks still clock in close to the size of Pathfinder stat blocks.  And Wizards hasn’t even added monster fluff information yet, so you can bet the actual Monster Manual entries will probably average about 1 page per monster, which is just about where 4e and Pathfinder are at now.

This may seem like a petty complaint, but devoting so much print space to a monster that will, in all likelihood, be dead in a few minutes seems to me to be a waste of time and money.  Extended stat blocks make improvised game play all the harder with crunchier rules sets.  I can’t count the number of times our Pathfinder game has ground to a halt while the GM consulted the Bestiary to read up on a monster he just rolled up, or built out a quick encounter budget for a random monster.  Of course, I realize that extended stat blocks are a way for game companies to pad their profit margins on rule books, making us pay for background material we probably don’t really need, especially when a couple of sentences would suffice for most monsters.  I just would have preferred if the monster blocks could have been trimmed down a bit more.

Related to this is the trend towards Hit Point inflation for both monsters and PCs, which in turn drives overall stat inflation in D&D.  While stat inflation adds unnecessary overhead to a game, I suppose it is the inevitable consequence of D&D’s slow drift away from a game of exploration to a game focused primarily on combat.  In an exploration based game, you want combat to be swift (and lethal, so as to make players think twice about diving head long into battle) so you can get back to dungeon exploration and treasure hunting, whereas in a combat-centric game you want long drawn out fights.  To its credit, basic 5e attempts to shift the focus back somewhat to exploration rather than just combat, though not as far as I might have liked.  Still, the stat inflation is there, leading to longer fights, suggesting that later rule books will probably provide an abundance of options shifting the focus back to crunchy, detailed tactical combat.

Now, you could just reduce the overall Hit Points of monsters and PCs to reduce that drag on the game.  But then you also have to contend with the third item I don’t like about 5e, again related to stat inflation, which is damage inflation.  On the surface, it doesn’t look too bad.  Just an extra point here or there, at 1st level at least.  But then you look at something like the Wizard’s cantrip Firebolt (which can be cast over-and-over again, without limit), which inflicts 1d10 damage and can be cast at will.  It requires an attack roll, to be sure, but that’s still quite a bit of damage, and at 5th level it goes up to 2d10 damage, then 3d10 at 11th and 4d10 at 17th level.  Which shows that you can’t just adjust Hit Point levels, but have to rebalance damage as well, which is a lot of friggin’ work.

And a fourth thing I’m not too excited about, the addition of backgrounds.  In my view, backgrounds add another step to what should be just a simple character generation process.  The handful of backgrounds provided for basic 5e is manageable, but you just know that entire forests will be sacrificed printing new options, and countless hours wasted as players pour over the splat books, looking for the perfect min/max combination to create the ultimate killing machine.  And while backgrounds can be omitted, with much less fuss than adjusting HP and damage levels, it still seems a not insignificant number of a character’s starting proficiencies and equipment derive from them, so some compensation may be in order.

Which leads to a final revelation for me:  by the time I’m done adjusting 5e to be the kind of old school rules-light game I’d like to run, all I’ve done is spent a lot of time re-writing OD&D, or Swords & Wizardry, or PFBB, with just a few house rules like Advantage/Disadvantage thrown in.  Much easier to simply stick with a system I already know and like, and just incorporate the worthwhile bits from 5e.  So, upon reflection, I probably wouldn’t run 5e after all, though I’d definitely be willing to play it (the basic flavor, at least), and most likely prefer it vastly over Pathfinder Core.


36 low-level monsters for 5th Edition

July 7, 2014

Hey guys, sorry for the spate of 5th Edition posts, but the release has given me something to talk about, so I’m going to roll with it for a little while. 🙂

So, WotC has released a pdf of an adventure, Legacy of the Crystal Shard, which contains stat blocks for 36 low-level monsters you can use with the new 5th Edition “basic” rules, if you’re so inclined.  You can get it here.

My impression is that most of these stat blocks clock around the same size as PFBB stat blocks, though the 5th Edition ones contain no monster fluff, just combat statistics.  This disappoints me a bit, as I’d hope that Wizards would trim down the stat blocks along with the rules, but this is apparently not to be.  And while there’s XP information for the monsters, there’s still no encounter building guidance, though reading the adventure should give you some idea.

Speaking of which, I didn’t bother reading the adventure, so no comment there.

Anyways, if you’re inclined to start running 5th Edition, you now have a few monsters to work with.  Cheers.

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