5E: The Thing About Backgrounds

August 27, 2014

The thing about backgrounds in D&D 5E is this:  they’re strictly past-tense.

They’re not what you are — they’re what you were.  What you are, now, is an adventurer.

The most important question to ask about your background is what changed? Why did you stop doing whatever your background describes and start adventuring?  — Player’s Basic Rules, pg 36.

The official backgrounds, unsurprisingly, pretty much get this right.  Perhaps also unsurprisingly, a lot of fan-made backgrounds are starting to mess this up.  Just something to keep an eye out for.

The Death Dog, Illustrated

August 12, 2014

“A death dog is an ugly two-headed hound that roams plains, deserts, and the Underdark.”

Death_Dog

Based on the most excellent silhouettes by Telecanter.

The Shortest 5E PHB Review in the Multiverse

August 11, 2014

5E is the “Yes you can!” edition.

I HAVE THE POW-ER

I HAVE THE POW-ER

Can I play a multiclass barbarian/monk/paladin?  Yes you can!

Can I cast magic missile in plate?  Yes you can!

Can I start off at level 1 playing Drizzt?  Yes you can!

 

Okay, there are still a few “no”s in here — no, you can’t wear chain maille as a druid, because druids honor nature by killing cows and wearing their skin, duh — but there’s fewer restrictions than any other edition that I can think of.

 

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.


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