1K Basic Pregens now Indexed

July 28, 2014

I’ve updated my document containing the thousand pre-generated Basic characters to add several indices.

You could find a random character who is:

  • a dwarf
  • a hill dwarf
  • a hill dwarf fighter
  • a hill dwarf fighter specializing in Great Weapon

…and so forth.

Here’s a link to the newest version.


One Thousand Pre-Generated Basic Characters

July 24, 2014

I’ve generated a PDF containing a thousand pre-generated D&D 5e/Basic characters, available for free download.

Check it out.

Useful for all kinds of things.


Review of the D&D Next Pre-Generated Characters

May 25, 2012

I haven’t had a chance to play any of these guys yet, but these are my first impressions.

Cleric of Moradin

This guy is a tank at AC 18, the highest of the pregens.  And the second-highest HP total.  If you want to wade into battle and don’t want to get hit, play this guy.

His main attack is warhammer at +4 to hit and 1d10+2 damage, so he can dish out the pain as well as soak it up.  Add an additional 1d6 damage if you’ve got crusader’s strike up, which you probably should.

You also get the usual clerical healing stuff, turn dead, etc, but stick to hitting things with your big stick.

Cleric of Pelor

Unlike your dwarven buddy, you’re not going to be wading into combat too much, even though your AC and HP are just fine.  You’re a laser cleric and medic, shooting up enemies from afar and patching up your pals.

Main attack is radiant lance at +6 and 1d8+4 damage.  Range of 50 feet on it.

Searing Light does an absolutely disgusting amount of damage, especially against the undead, so keep that in mind.

Don’t forget to use all your herbalist toys.  And you’ve got some holy water too.

Dwarf Fighter

Your AC isn’t so great, but you’ve got lots of HP, and you can lay down the hurt.  Greataxe at +6 to hit, 2d6+7 damage.  That’ll get their attention.

With the Slayer theme, you don’t even have to hit your target to hurt them.  Use this with your crossbow and just shoot anywhere you want.

Hang out beside your dwarven cleric buddy and just beat them all down.

Rogue Halfling

You’re going to be spending a lot of time hiding.  A LOT.  So make sure you get very intimate with the rules around hiding and stealth.

You usually be shooting at range, usually with your sling, which is +6 to hit, 1d8+3 damage.  Probably with another 1d6 damage from sneak attack, which you should be getting most of the time.

You’re carrying around a bullseye lantern for some reason; make someone bigger than you carry it around.  You can always steal it back later.

You’ve got an actual job from Trade, so try to pick something interesting, like haberdasher or prostitute.

Elf Wizard

You’ve got a terrible AC so don’t think about wading into combat, as tempting as shocking grasp may be.  Hang back with your friendly cleric of Pelor and shoot people in the eye with magic missile, or perhaps the occasional ray of frost — especially handy if an enemy goes prone at the feet of your smashy friends.

Your magic missile only does 1d4+1 damage, but it never misses, so just keep spamming it out there.  Sleep and burning hands are pretty decent too, but note that they both effect all creatures in the area, including your friends.  Also familiarize yourself with what the ‘cone’ shape is in this version.

You can cast light at will, but you’re still carrying around 10 torches for some reason, so give those to someone who needs them.

Use mage hand at every opportunity, of course.

The background feature Researcher is an absolutely fantastic ability; use it every chance you get.

Overall: It’s a good bunch of characters.  Every one of them is tempting to play, for different reasons.

A Review of the D&D Next Bestiary

May 24, 2012

Back when AD&D was brand-new, the first book they published was the Monster Manual.  So I’m going to start off my reviews with this file — The Bestiary, 24 May 2012 version.

The first thing to notice is the range of creatures, from 25xp cave rats all the way up to 450xp trolls and beyond.  It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling, knowing that the 1st-level PCs might run into any of these.

Fire Beetle:  I’ve always liked these little cheerful glowing guys.  I’m a big fan of monster dissection and trophy-taking.

This guy is worth 100xp, has a +2/1d6 attack, and has 5 hp.  I like to see that in a monster.  One good whack from a two-handed weapon and he’s done.

Looks like weapon damage types (“piercing”, in this case) is back, which is fine by me.

It’s nice to see sections on Combat, Habitat and Society, and Legends and Lore.  For me it’s the right level of just enough information.

Berserker:  It’s nice to see monsters that are people.  Can always use more of those guys.  And they’re Neutral, if violent.  So you can’t really feel too good about just killing them whenever they show up.

Rage is a nice ability.  I like how it says that they get +5 hp, but doesn’t get into what happens if he falls out of rage, loses those hp, and it would kill him.  That’s the sort of judgment call I’d rather see left up to the DM instead of spending a bunch of words on.

Immunity to fear is a perfect touch.

Bugbear:  Solid all around.  Get a version of backstab which looks pretty sweet.

I miss the lack of Number Appearing and Treasure, but I can live with it.  Still, I’d be tempted to pull them out of an earlier version.  It’s the sort of thing that’s nice to have and easy to ignore when not needed.

A monstrous god is mentioned, which I’ve always got some time for.

Giant Centipede:  Huge bugs are also just fine in my book.  Its venom ability, at first glance, looks fine.  And hey, more monster dissection, and the implication of poison-using PCs, which I’m a fan of.

Dark Cultist:  More people monsters, but evil this time.  You can tell from their oozing sores.  They use the same spells as cleric PCs, which I think I’m in favour of.

Our first really serious combat monster is here, the Dark Priest, with AC 20, 65 hp, a +4 attack doing 1d6+2+1d8 damage, and some spells.  Looks like a handful.

Looks like the Far Realm is still around.  I’m happy about that.

The bit in the Legends and Lore entry about witchfinders is a nice touch.  There’s enough here in these two pages to build the foundation for a good adventure or three.

Gelatinous Cube:  Just wouldn’t be D&D without these blobs.  It has all the usual goodies associated with them.

Gnoll:  Good to see them, and they’ve got their own language again.  And their usual dread demon lord.

Demonic Frenzy is a bit weak to use as a full action.  I’d probably let him do it once a round for free, or make it an aura, or something.

We also get a statistical breakdown of common weapon load-outs, which I sorta like.  I’m not sure I need the exact frequencies, but I don’t mind them.

Again, enough here in a couple pages to put together a few adventures.

Goblin:  Of course we’d have goblins.  And they’re Neutral Evil, so I think we’re back to the ninefold alignment system.  Fine by me.

Their backstabby abilities look good, and introduce some synergy which is nice.

We get some nice background on them, and more weapon loadouts, and it’s pretty solid.

Gray Ooze:  Ennhh, not sure I really need this when I’ve got a gelatinous cube.  On the other hand, their corrision ability is nice and implies that the DMs can take away the PCs’ toys, so that’s good.

Hobgoblin:  And we’ve got Lawful Evil monsters too.  They’re their usual organized warmongering selves, and I’ll be using them.

Human:  Good old humans.  Interestingly their Int, Wis, and Cha scores are below “average”.  Always need to have some of these guys on hand.

Kobold:  The usual, although these ones don’t bark.  2 hp keeps them nervous.  Some of the higher-level ones are pretty legit.

Medusa:  Unexpected, but nice to see.  Dual attacks.  Gaze aversion is nice and lightweight, and we get basically a save-or-die effect.

And we get a sanctioned use of the medusa’s severed head.  I don’t see anything about the clever use of a mirror, but she’s not immune to petrification herself so it seems vaguely plausible.

Minotaur:  Another Greek classic goon, with 132 hp and an axe that’s great.  It’d be fun to stick one of these guys in a labyrinth.  Also interesting to note that as big and tough as he is, he’s still only got a 19 Strength.  Stat inflation may have been conquered.

Ogre:  The littlest giants.  Hints at bribing them for safe passage are appreciated.

Orc:  Good old orcs.  Can’t have too many orcs. These orcs are much like the rest.

Owlbear:  Everyone loves owlbears and their cuddly hugs.  And, holy crap, they nest in trees!  I didn’t see that one coming.  And their eggs are valuable, so it’s a good time for everyone.

Rat:  No one loves rats, but they’re always around anyway.  The version of disease we get with the dire rat is much more like a poison, but it’s okay.  Wouldn’t be hard to houserule in some more serious disease rules, I would imagine.

Skeleton:  Looks like the mindless undead are back to being Neutral instead of some variety of evil.  I can see the arguments for both sides.  They resist non-bludgeoning damage, which I’ve always sort of liked.

Apparently they sometimes “deliver simple messages” which I really need to work into an adventure at some point.

Stirge:  Of course, I have a particularly-soft spot in my heart for the humble stirge.  These ones are a little more lethal than some other versions.  Looking forward to throwing some at a party.

Troll: Big, evil, rubbery, regenerationy, flammable.  The usual.  Its vulnerability to coup de grace is a bit surprising; not sure I’d actually let my players get away with that.  Especially since the Legends and Lore implies that it wouldn’t work.

Wight:  Corporeal soul-suckers.  Good reason to carry that silver dagger around with you.  Pretty solid.

Zombie:  The usual slow lumbering sort.  Sadly, they cannot do the hustle.  Spontaneous zombie plagues are a nice touch.

And that’s that!  Overall, a pretty good collection of monsters in only 34 pages.  I think I could run quite a few adventures with just what’s been collected here.  Not sure which playtest file I’ll tackle next.  Probably lay into the pregenerated characters.

Several character portraits circa 1888

April 3, 2012

A couple of pages from Harper’s new monthly magazine, Volume 76, Issues 451-456, 1888 which look like they’d make good character portraits for a Victorian-era game, or possibly even Spirit of the Century.

The beloved Giant Shrew

March 19, 2012
Giant Shrew

Giant Shrew

Shrew, Giant

No. Enc.: 1d4 (1d8)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 180′ (60′)
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 1
Attacks: 2 (bite)
Damage: 1d6/1d6
Save: F1
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: None
XP: 19

Giant shrews are rodents, and in some ways resemble giant rats. However, shrews have slightly longer snouts and are burrowing animals with reduced eyesight. They can jump up to 5′. Giant shrews are able to echolocate in a fashion not unlike bats, by emitting small squeaks. With this kind of “vision” they are able to see 60′, and this may be blocked with the spell silence 15′ radius. A deafened (and thus blinded) giant shrew has an effective AC of 8 and suffers a –4 penalty to attack rolls.

Giant shrews are insectivores, and are highly territorial. They will attack trespassers, and are extremely fast. They automatically have initiative on the first round of combat, and have a bonus of +1 on the second round. Giant shrews are fearsome, vicious fighters and they are extremely intimidating.  Any opponent with 3 HD or fewer must succeed in a saving throw versus death or flee.

(from Labyrinth Lord)

These things are crazy for a 1-HD creature.  There’s gotta be easier ways to gain 19 XP.

The ancient salt mines of Wieliczka

March 14, 2012

This blog post is old but it’s new to me, and it is BLOWING MY MIND.

Map of the underground salt mine

Map of the underground salt mine













So, yeah, go read that blog post, and be inspired.

Fate Corps: Skills as Aspects as Qualities

October 17, 2011

Let’s start with skills.  What *is* a skill, or a Strands-of-Fate attribute?  What is Strength+2?

It’s basically an Aspect that’s always invoked, that you never have to pay for.  So why doesn’t it look like an Aspect?

Let’s consider a new thing: Qualities.  A Quality is a type of Aspect, or perhaps an Aspect is a type of Quality.  Unlike an Aspect, you don’t need to pay to invoke a Quality.  It’s always invoked, all the time, for free.  Also unlike Aspects, Qualities are often ranked.

So, what is Strength+2, really?

Maybe it’s Strength+2 (Ninja [+1], Way of the Tiger [+1]).  Or it could be Ninja+2, or (Weightlifter +3, Over the Hill -1.)

“Ninja”, here, is a Quality, and it adds +1 to this character’s Strength.  Perhaps it also adds +2 to his Endurance, and maybe even -1 to Empathy.

That whole thing about “Hey why am I only Ninja when I pay Fate Point for it?” goes away with this implementation.  You are Ninja all the time without paying for it.

This undermines the idea of Aspects as primary characterization, somewhat — and I think that’s a good thing.  If “Ninja” is really central to your character, then he should probably be Ninja all the time.

It’s already invoked (or, depending, compelled) all the time, so it’s not really valid to try to invoke it again for another +2.  You’re already Strength+2 by dint of being Ninja — try a different Aspect.

However, it’s entirely valid to invoke or compel Qualities *for effect*.  You want to spend a Fate Point to have a smoke bomb?  Dude, you are Ninja — of course you have a smoke bomb.  Spend the point and be good.

Similarly, compels for effect are also valid.  If you’re Paladin all the time, then off you go to save the princess from the evil necromancer.

It’s a fine way to implement things like races.  If you are a dwarf, then get the Dwarf+1 quality to your Endurance.  But take Dwarf-1 to your Comeliness.  If you also want to be particularly dwarfy, then sure, take a “Dwarf Among Dwarves” Aspect as well, if you like.  There’s also another way to do it which I’ll mention in a bit.

What else works like Qualities?  Consequences, that’s what.  Say someone breaks your arm.  That major consequence can be the Broken Arm -2 Quality.  You don’t get paid off with Fate points every time your opponents take advantage of your broken arm. You just get the -2.  Maybe to every roll, maybe not.

So say you’ve got a scene in a place where it’s really dark.  Sure, you could make that a Dark Aspect on the scene.  Everyone pay up if you’re hiding better because it’s Dark or stumbling over things.

Or you could make it a Quality.  Dark:1.  That’s a +1 to some skills and a -1 to others; you could enumerate them all by skill and trapping if you really wanted to, but you probably have better things to do.

So someone might want to hide in the Dark, but might want more than that +1 bonus.  How can they get it?  One way would be to Invoke For Effect — “Hey, it’s Dark in here, right?  I use my Perception to find some Shadowy Shadows to hide in, and Invoke for Effect.”  So that character is placing the Aspect “Shadowy Shadows” on the scene, and getting a free tag on it, for an additional +2.  Assuming they make that roll, of course — the GM could make it really easy (“Oh yeah, there’s shadows everywhere, no problem”) or really difficult (“It’s totally dark — every part seems just as  shadowy as every other part”) or anywhere in between.

So our old friend who is a Dwarf Among Dwarves would perhaps rather do things this way — just make ad-hoc invocations of his Dwarf Quality to put Dwarf Among Dwarves on himself, and then tag it.  The possibility of a skill roll is what makes this different and inferior to buying the Aspect outright.

So what’s the real difference here between Aspects and Qualities?  Should that dark room have the Dark Aspect, or the Dark Quality?

This gets into the philosophy behind what’s going on narratively with Fate Points. What’s the difference between the guy who is Strength+2 and the guy who has the Strong Aspect?

The difference, in my opinion, is free will.  It’s about choice.  The Strength+2 person is strong all the time — when they’re asleep, in the shower, etc.  The Strong person can choose to make an extra effort to lift that heavy thing.

When it comes to scenes and things, I like to imagine a robot or giant insect or other thing with no free will or volition.  Is that robot having problems moving around that Dark room?  Then it’s probably the Dark Quality.  Or can the giant insect move around without problems, although a human could easily take advantage of the shadowy darkness?  Then that points towards the Dark Aspect.

It can also help build up difficulties.  Why is this wall +3 to climb?  Well, it’s Wall +3 (Tall+1, Slippery When Wet+3, Ivy-1).  That implies the mechanical effects of waiting around until it stops raining.

There could very easily be two characters in the same game, in the same party, and one has Ninja as a Quality and the other has Ninja as an Aspect.  That’s no problem at all.  Quality Ninja is Ninja all the time.  Aspect Ninja is only Ninja when he feels like it.  Qualities are truly the “this is what this character *is*” part of the game, while Aspects become “this is what the character *can be when he feels like it*” part.  It can even become a part of character ‘advancement’, if the character changes his Aspect to a Quality, or vice versa.

Assessing:  Unlike Aspects, Qualities are almost always self-evident.  You don’t need to roll to know that the wall is tall and wet, that that guy over there is a cop.  You might need a bit more finesse to know that a particular guy is Cop:+2 and not Cop:+1, but even that’s probably easier than noticing he has the Aspect: Behind On My Mortgage Payments.

Manoeuvring:  I’ve actually already covered this, although you may have missed it. If a character wants to give the room the Dark Quality, as opposed to just the Dark Aspect, can he do that?  How?  In fact, I’ve already told you how you establish new Qualities — it’s what attacks do, by establishing consequences.  Indeed, that is what distinguishes the ‘attack’ version of ‘I shove him off balance’ from  the ‘manoeuvre’ version.  If your character wants to add the Dark Quality to  the room, he makes an attack — perhaps against the lighting.  And, yes, this means  that, finally, you can literally attack the darkness.

Levels:  In some systems, the player characters are just flat-out better than the average person.  One way to do this is to give those characters a Quality like “Centurion:+1″ that applies to every skill there is.  The average person might default to +0 on a skill, but the PCs default to +1.  Why?  Because Centurion, that’s why.

You could use this to level up the party.  After a while, everyone is Centurion:+2.  This does two things:  It increases all their skills by 1 (probably) and it  increases the minimum skill default by 1.  That’s a characteristic of level-based systems (like the various D&Ds) in contrast to skill-based systems (like the various GURPSs.)  In a level-based Fate game, you would know that 3rd-level characters have at least a +3 in every skill — Endurance, Wealth, etc.  That can make scaling some things a lot easier — you can determine, for example, that every 3rd-level character can survive a point-blank shotgun blast from a 1st-level enemy.  Without a level system, you generally don’t know that.

Qualities As Skills:  Consider this enemy:

Ninjas! — Ninja+2.

By which I mean: this guy has a +2 in the Ninja skill.

What the heck is in the Ninja skill?  I don’t know.  I mean, I *know*, just like you do, but it’s not written down anywhere.  I know what the trappings are associated with that skill.  Stabbing the characters with his sword, climb up walls, etc.  Trying to sell the characters life insurance, not so much.

Is that superior to listing out every enemies’ Strength, Fists, Melee Weapons, Athletics, etc etc etc skills?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  If you don’t know what the trappings of the Ninja skill are, you’re probably a lot better off with the extensive list.

Does this turn the game into Risus?  Yeah, sort of.

Is this the same as the Quality of Ninja+2?  It’s certainly very similar.

Of course, the Ninja skill and all the ‘usual’ skills are not mutually exclusive.  You could customize up this guy:  Ninja+2, Swords+1, Climbing-1.  That guy is +3 to hit you with a sword, +1 to climb up a tree.

Is that exactly the same as a 3rd-level Centurion?  It is looking pretty similar, isn’t it.

So, that’s Qualities.  Give them a try.

Ark II in the Land of the Lost

October 4, 2011

SleestakSo I wrote a little thing.  So little, in fact, that you might as well just read it; it’ll take less time than me trying to explain it.

Download Ark II in the Land of the Lost

Vocabulary of Locutions

August 26, 2011

I ran across this list in a palmistry book, and it really seemed like something well-suited for character generation, or plot generation, or whatnot.

Entries include things like “Character (Good) but sadly influenced by women; will however conquer fortune anew” and “Intrigue based on the fancies of love and sure to be suddenly annihilated”.

Anyway, feel free to take a look.



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