The Bait Shop Edition 3

Welcome to the Bait Shop, come right in! Missing the manticore? Well he got tetchy so we replaced him with Greg. Who is Greg? Well he is the red dragon behind me. Pay him no mind, as long as you don’t try to steal you should be fine.
Here in the Bait Shop we have many fine wares to tickle your brain meats! What? You thought we carried such drab materials as potions or swords? BAH! What we deal in…is inspiration! Need a story? Come in and see what catches your fancy! Need a plan to deal with those dastardly adventurers? We got barrels full of em.
This is still a problem and no one seems to be able to solve it. Perhaps I should put an exclamation point over the barrels. That usually attracts hardy adventurers.
Today on offer, I present the following 5 pieces of Bait! Perhaps one will tantalize you? Entice you? Inspire you?
Oh and no charge, at least for today. Consider these a fine sample of our wares. Welcome to the Bait Shop. I hope you can hook a good one with these!

Continue reading “The Bait Shop Edition 3”

Does Dungeons and Dragons have Critical Role to Thank for it’s Resurgence?

Time for another guest post, this time from the folks behind Skullsplitter Dice.  I figured they had something to say, so why not let them say it.  Please be aware my allowance for guest posts at the moment is based on need, and my own personal interest.

About the Author: Ted has been a gamer since 1992, and is Chief Adventurer at SkullSplitter Dice, a fine maker of RPG Dice Sets. He currently is playing a Vedalken Arcana Cleric who likes to “practice medicine”.

Hey, have you heard of Dungeons and Dragons? Unless you’re living under a rock, it’s likely you’ve heard about it, seen big time stars like Sofía Vergara post on Instagram about it, and even watched kids playing it in Netflix’s Stranger Things. What has driven D&D’s resurgence? A little thing called Twitch and a show called Critical Role have likely been instrumental in it’s resurgence.

Twitch is a live streaming video platform that makes it easy for anyone to live stream content; last year it had a record 1.1 million concurrent viewers on it’s platform. Critical Role is a show on Twitch that’s DM’d by the Magnificent Matt Mercer (who is a level 20 Dungeon Master if we’ve ever seen one) and a bunch of “nerdy ass voice actors”. While it certainly doesn’t represent everyone’s game experience, the fact is they make an amazing case for how D&D is played all over the world; a bunch of friends sitting around a table telling stories together. On any given Thursday night fifty thousand viewers will turn in live to watch this group of voice actors fight dragons and slay bad guys. To put that in perspective, that’s enough to fill some professional football stadiums. To watch Dungeons and Dragons. Live. Their YouTube replays racking up an impressive 387k+ views in just a week, and millions of views over a year. How many people have those 50,000+ viewers brought in to watch, and then play Dungeons and Dragons?

Sure, the argument can be made that 5e is more accessible than other editions were; heck, I was able to talk my wife who had never played a tabletop game before into playing it after she watched an episode of Critical Role. She’s stuck around for years because she has found that it has the goldilocks amount of complexity. Just the right amount to be interesting, but still accessible to people who don’t want to be bothered at the moment. It’s not just my wife though, there are tons of posts in Facebook groups and forums of people saying a similar story; “Watched Critical Role, now how do I find a group?”.  I did a quick post in the biggest Facebook group for Critical Role, as typical response were similar to this: “I’d always wanted to but never did until I became a critter and I’m currently dming for my friends” and this “Yup. I never understood what people meant by “group storytelling” until I watched a few episodes.”

Stories like that are why Critical Role has been hugely instrumental; it makes an accessible game seem more accessible; their mistakes, slipups and foibles let people know that it’s ok to not play perfectly because you can just end up having fun with your friends because of those mistakes. It lowers the barrier and lowers the fear that it’s some arcane game that’s unavailable to everyone. It’s not. If you haven’t played Dungeons and Dragons yet, or you haven’t watched Critical Role yet, you should. Soon you’ll be shouting at your dice and jumping on your couch during exciting moments too.

Slumbering Ursine Dunes: A Review

EDITORS NOTE: Decided to give a guest writer a shot at taking care of one of the products I have had sitting in my review queue for a long while, and here it is!  Thanks DM Doc 🙂

Donald “The DM Doctor” is a Paizo Season 9 Top 32 RPG Superstar. He has DM’d for over 25 years and turned to game design and writing in 2013. He is currently working on developing the Forevermore RPG system which he wishes to make available for free to all TTRPG gamers. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Slumbering Ursine Dunes reads and feels like an Old School RPG. Almost. The Old School Revival (OSR) is strong in this adventure. And so is the homebrew, DM side-notes, and phallic-jokes (in abundance). Good? Bad? Really depends on the GM and the groups’ play style.

Slumbering Ursine Dunes is a sandbox adventure for a party of levels 2-4 using the Old School Revival system. This adventure is complete with two full-scale dungeons, over a dozen new monsters/races, and a couple of new unique spells.

Pulling up other reviews, I see two common comments: phallic jokes and suggestion to start the PCs at a higher level.

Review and Scores

If you are not familiar with my style of reviews, here is a quick run-down.

  • Cost vs Value — Cost of product versus the value of the content. (20 points)
  • Art — Does the art match up to the content or product? (10 points)
  • Readability — Is the product easy to read and understand? (20 points)
  • Mechanics — Are the mechanics solid? Is there a needed tweak? (15 points)
  • Stand-alone-ability — Excluding core game materials, how many other materials are required to used this product? (15 Points)
  • Originality — How original is the spin and design of the product? (20 points)
  • Overall Score — Out of 100 possible points.
  • Review Notes — My comments and ramblings about the product. I will try to keep to a designer notes review because I know that everyone has different preferences in the way they choose to play their games.

Cost vs Value

Slumbering Ursine Dunes is listed as a “sandbox” OSR adventure. Sandbox adventures are almost always a good buy because there is often enough extra material for a GM to expand upon the adventure (or take elements for an entirely new adventure).

A GM will happily note the TWO full-scale dungeon areas for the party to explore. There is plenty of extra information for running encounters and side-quests outside of both dungeon areas. Outside of the dungeons, over a dozen new monsters await in the appendices along with a couple of unique spells, new races/classes, and tables for just about anything you think you would need (including pre-gen Hirelings). One good thing I can say about this module is it is packed full of resources to use with this and other adventures. Even if you choose to purchase this module strictly for the resources and not to run the adventure, you will get a great deal of content for the modest price.

20 points/ 20 points

Art

I have mentioned how I am not a fan of digital art. So, if I do not like digital art, what do I like? Old school black/white line art. Gritty and heroic. And that is exactly the kind of art you get with Slumbering Ursine Dunes.

This adventure looks and feels (and pretty much tells you in writing) that it pays homage to the old school RPGs. And not only are you playing an adventure with OSR mechanics, but you have the artwork to back it up. I love David Lewis Johnson’s art style and artistic choices. The pieces bring to life many of the most important scenes in the adventure.

And not only is the art great, but it is well placed. I hate it when I get some really awesome artwork, but there is no context. I mean. Cool, but why is it there? Not the case here. Iconic features and memorable battles have the matching artwork for the enjoyment of GM and player alike. Everything fits so perfectly together.

10 points/ 10 points

Readability

Okay, what can I say about readability? Let’s see, there are good page references listed and you get some important notes/details in relevant areas. The book is well-organized in terms of what information is grouped together.

So what’s the problem?

Well… Before I get on my soapbox, let me just say what I am about to complain about I am very, very guilty of these same writing sins. I point them out strictly because they are present and I have found a plethora of these sins in my own writing. The erudite author dazzles with some choice words and rarely seen (at least by me) references and metaphors. Chris Kutalik’s passages exude sophistication and… Okay. Sorry. That was a big hint, but…

While reading through Slumbering Ursine Dunes, I felt like someone kept hitting the pause button. What happened was normal RPG technical writing here, a creative writing excerpt there. Fine. That’s what one expects. But then every now and then I would get a paragraph or section where I felt someone was either showboating or pulling out a thesaurus to paint over poor writing. There were references and words that I honestly had to look up and google (mind you, I don’t admit to having the greatest vocabulary). Obscure references and showy words are great in creative pieces, especially when you need just the perfect word with the right meaning and the right sound to evoke the emotion you are trying to instill in your reader. But in a technical section, a writer needs to stick to normal wording and commonplace jargon for the target audience.

At least in my opinion.

While this was only a minor setback at first, there was no real rhyme or reason to when it would happen throughout the entirety of the adventure. I was almost halfway in when I had to go back and make sure there was only one author on this piece. Now, I cannot say if this is an issue with an author trying to spice up his writing to make it more lively, or if this is two editors (causing mixed voices and writing styles) and taking what might have been a very sound and great piece and just spilling their word salad all over the pages to justify their pay. I know. I’m being harsh, but this was a constant annoyance for me while reading through this.

The second (and final) problem I found in the writing again had to do with “Creative writing” techniques (is that the right word?) in a “technical writing” portion of the adventure. There are fart/phallic jokes (spoilers, sorry). And I mean, sure, my group has those, I’ve had those in my notes for home games. Whatever. However, these glimpses of what could comedic gold meant as comic relief in an otherwise trudging battle of endurance, fall flat as DM details. So centaurs like to draw warden penises. I’m thinking as a DM, “WTF?” Rather than just tell the DM these facts, insert a descriptive box for the DM to tell the players when there is such an occurrence. No need to point it out to the DM. Just put it down on the first opportunity it should happen and then you can note to the DM to continue with this motif. Done.  

2/20 points

Mechanics

Typically, mechanics for an adventure module has to do with the feasibility of events to happen. On occasion (such as with this module), there are some conflicts with the module and the system used. For Slumbering Ursine Dunes, I ran into an issue that is quite common with OSR games: lack of statistics. Anytime I do not have attribute statistics, I become an unhappy GM. I buy modules when I want less prep-work. Generally, I make a read-through, make a few notes and bookmark referenced pages for quick access. OSR modules tend to add prep work in the form of a GM finding/creating missing statistics. Because this is a common issue, I tried not to penalize this module as much as one from another system.

However, the issue did not end there. Slumbering Ursine Dunes is a trudging, endurance-based adventure. Now, this can be a great tool for GMs to raise the difficulty— WHEN used sparingly. Reading through this module a few times, I find that just starting with the first dungeon, a party with all resources already spent/allocated is going to feel as if they are part of one of the many phallic-jokes in this module. And someone forgot the lube. The party isn’t met with just one obstacle, not just two, but easily three or MORE ways to slow their progress and cost them resources before even arriving at the first location. And this is before expecting any battles of which there is an increased wandering encounter incidence (a 33% EVERY 30 minutes, and slowed movement).

Slumbering Ursine Dunes is meant for a party around level 2-4, and I would highly recommend leaning toward the 3-4 range. Start at this range ensures the party has the additional resources needed to not bring the adventure to a grinding halt while they try to find new ways to make money.

8 points/ 15 points

Stand-alone-ability

Being able to stand-alone without additional products is always a plus for a busy GM. Beyond the core books for a system (OSR in this case), I prefer to need just the module itself to run the adventure. Because Slumbering Ursine Dunes adds unique monsters and spells (found in the appendices), this makes it easy for a GM to prioritize their resource space. Any time I can go without opening another book, the easier it is for me to run the module.

Having unique monsters found as part of the module is normally awesome, but one thing I find as a recurring problem with OSR books is lack of statistics. While this is more of a mechanical issue, for a newer GM, not having statistics (such as attribute stats) can be a big issue. If a spell or effect raises or lowers a stat, the GM needs to quickly find a similar monster with a full stat block. This takes away precious time (in a battle sequence of all things) AND may require additional books outside of core if unable to find a close enough match.

12 Points/ 15 points

Originality

Well, I can say that I haven’t run across modules written quite like this. There are plenty of new(ish) monsters to throw at the party and some new race/class choices for PCs to try out. The main story/plot is typical for a fantastical setting, but getting a post-apocalyptic/cyborg-type monster and similar elements give it a slightly different feel in places.

Reading through this module was a bit of a turnoff for me. There was quite a lack of professionalism. I felt like I was reading a GM’s personal notes annotated in the margins of a purchased module. For some people, this may work because it makes the technical side not so dry-cut. If you find normal modules to be a snooze-fest, you may enjoy the change of pace.

18 points/20 points

Overall Score

What this sandbox gets right, it scores big. Sadly, where things went wrong, they went really wrong. I love the artwork and there are tons of tables, bonus materials, and other resources worth the modest price. Overall Score: 70 points/100 points

Side note Ramblings

If I had managed to find a copy at my local game store and thumbed through the pages, I am not sure what would happen. There is a lot of resources I could work with and the two-dungeon/sandbox adventure makes it a great buy. My only concern is that depending on what pages I read, I was either impressed or disgusted (mostly with the loss of professionalism). I know in saying such, I am not doing much better. Personally, if I were to run this, I would need to put in a little prep work to finish a few things to my liking. I would also remove the phallic jokes and replace them with whatever comic relief best fits the group I’m GMing. Regardless, if you enjoy Old School Revival RPGs, Slumbering Ursine Dunes has plenty to offer your group.

Image source: Cover for Slumbering Ursine Dunes.

New Homebrew Feat: Split Focus

Sometimes I get ideas in my head and those ideas need to be let out, lest I go crazy.  Today is one of those days.  One of my only real complaints with 5E DND is the concentration system for spells.  I get the idea behind it, to balance spellcasters vs non spellcasters, but it can feel incredibly limiting at times to only be able to have one “buff” or one  “debuff” active at a given time, especially when there are so many options or choices available to a caster to use.

Because of this I got it in my head to come up with a way to allow a spellcaster to concentrate on more than one spell at a time while still having a significant trade off.  Obviously, this allows casters to be more powerful in a general sense, so this feat would not be for everyone.  I tend to play higher powered and unbalanced games anyway, so for me this really doesn’t impact me all that much.

Let’s start with the feat itself, and then I will explain the logic behind it.

Split Focus

Requirements:

  • 15 Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma
  • Ability to cast 3rd Level Spells

The spellcaster has become adept at splitting their focus and concentration, allowing them to hold 2 Concentration spells active at the same time.  However, this is extremely straining to the spellcaster and cannot be maintained for long. When concentrating on a single spell, everything is as usual.  However, if the spellcaster casts a second concentration spell, the following occurs:

  • The caster must make a Constitution Saving Throw at the end of each turn that they have 2 Concentration Spells active.  This includes the first turn that this effect is active.  The DC of the save is equal to 10 + the Combined Spell Level of the spells (IE if they are concentrating on a level 1 spell and a level 3 spell, the save DC is 10 + 1 + 3 = DC 14).  If they fail the save, BOTH spells immediately end.
  • While concentrating on 2 spells, the caster will take damage at the start of each of their turns equal to three times the combined spell level of the spells.  This damage cannot be avoided, mitigated, or reduced in any way.  This damage does NOT trigger a Concentration Check however.  (IE if they are concentrating on a level 1 and level 3 spell, they will take (1+3)x3 = 12 Damage a round).
  • Anytime the caster takes damage (not including the damage from this feat), they must make a concentration check as normal for each spell individually.  Failing either save causes both spells to end.

Seems like a lot I know, but let’s go over each part and why I did it that way.  First the requirements: these are intended to make sure that primarily casters are the ones who pick this up, and it limits how early a caster can take this feat.  The stat requirement means that if a secondary caster wants to take this (say a Paladin) they need to invest in going after it.  Further a player won’t get 3rd level spells as a pure caster class till level 5, and other “secondary” caster types get 3rd level much much later, meaning this limits who can take this and when.  Most in fact could take this around level 8, as that is when you would get the ASI that you could switch to a Feat.

Now the other parts.  First there is the Con Save. This is chosen to represent first that you are straining to hold the two spells actively in your mind, and losing that focus will cause both spells to drop immediately.  You start making these saves the same turn that you start concentrating on the second spell, and since Con Saves are not usually a save type that primary casters (Sorcerers, Bards, Clerics, Wizards, ect) this means they will, in general, have a lower total bonus to their saving throw.  Additionally, the damage component means that they will in essence slowly be killing themselves to use this boost.  The scaling amount of damage is intended to represent just how strong a spell is.  Bless is only level 1, and holding that plus say Bane shouldn’t be TOO hard on a caster once they are high enough in level, but holding say Haste and Wall of Fire?  That would be VASTLY different, more powerful, and thus more demanding.  Finally, having both spells end on failing a single Concentration save means that the caster will not want to be in harm’s way.

Some of the values might need some tweaking, such as the damage per round or the save DC, but I think on the whole this could work out to be a “fairly” balanced way to allow casters who want to specialize as support types to really make use of all the amazing spells out there in 5e DND.  Now if you are trying to play a more grounded game, with more grit and threat this is most likely not a feat you want to allow, as it WILL make the party stronger on the whole, even with the drawbacks.

Let me know what you think about the feat in the comments below!  Would you use this feat in your own games?  How would you change it?  I am open to suggestions and I am curious as I know one of my patrons, Wandering Alchemist, had some thoughts about the number of dice rolls.

As always thanks for reading everyone and Stay Nerdy!  Make sure to follow me on TwitchYoutubeTwitter, and join my Steam Group and Steam Curator pages!  Pledge to my Patreon!  Spread the word on social media & help me get out there so I can bring even more content to the masses.  You do want more content yes?

For some other homebrew stuff I have done, check out the following:

Tips to Improve your Improv & Quick Thinking Skills

One of the best skills a GM / DM can learn for Tabletop gaming is the ability to improvise during a game.  Frequently the players will come up with some plan or idea that you never even considered, and it can throw off your entire plan when it happens.  So how do you deal with these situations?
Well, you can freeze and lose the flow of the game as many new DMs do.  This is a normal reaction and even experienced GMs deal with it.  This however is not an effective reaction generally.  Another option is to tell the players “No that’s not going to work because *reason*” but that takes away player agency, and can feel like you are forcing the players down a specific path.
What you need to be able to do is think on the fly and improvise a new solution that will fit your story, and let the players do what they want.  And for that, you need to be able to improvise and keep up the pace of the game.  And let me be honest, this is a hard skill to master.  I did a video a while back on my Top 3 GM Skills and this post sort of expands on that vid.
First and foremost, you need to be able to think on your feet and react quickly, and come up with a way for the players to move forward using their idea while also making it seem like you had it planned all along.  And there are some things you can do to help both your speaking ability to make it seem natural, and also your emergency prep stuff.  A good book, by the way, that you may want to check out is the Lazy DMs Guide by Sly Flourish & Its sequel, both of which have tons of good advice for how to do low prep high improv games that let your players guide things while you sit back and adjust as needed.  Also the sequel even has sweet tools you can use for quick creation of monsters and such.
As far as dealing with the contents of an adventure going off the rails (such as the players going East when you intended for em to go West) you may want to consider a set of index cards with emergency encounters on them.  These can help you easily plop down a fight, a dungeon, whatever, when the situation calls for it.  You also should be willing to adjust where the players find the item or clue they need for your story.  If you meant for them to meet a lone traveler on the road who would help them, perhaps instead now they end up in this crypt and find their corpse with a note on it, thus giving the players the intended bread crumb.  Things like that.  Always, ALWAYS be willing to adjust your plans to fit your players intentions, and you can slowly hopefully guide them back on the path you planned.  Hell, think of yourself as a god of the world if need be, and be willing to move places and locations wholesale.  If the players did not have foreknowledge of a things location, how would they know that you moved the Black Forest from a mountain valley in the North and dropped it in front of them in the west?  They wouldn’t!  The world, for you, is malleable, never forget that.
As far as improving your ability to make this all seem like it was intended all along, one of my best tips is to practice speaking.  As crazy as it sounds, getting good at speaking takes practice, and one of ways I personally practice is to rehearse everywhere.  Come up with imaginary situations in your head and start holding a one sided conversation in the shower, on your commute, ect.  Basically talk to yourself and imagine how the other party would react in your mind, and then respond to that reaction.  Change the reactions as you need to and practice dealing with sudden shifts.  Imagine what your players MIGHT do (you should have a good idea of how they react to things) to play out scenarios in your head, and say out loud your responses.
Yes, it’s a little silly, but it works really well once you get the hang of it.  Additionally, just sheer experience will improve your speaking ability alone.  The more you play the game, the better you will get at doing these things.  And don’t worry too much about messing things up, because its your game!  If you mess something up and no one catches it, was it ever a mistake?  I say no.
It was planned alllllll along.

The Bait Shop Edition 2

Welcome to the Bait Shop, come right in! Don’t mind the Manticore he is harmless, I assure you. You can call him Steve. Here in the Bait Shop we have many fine wares to tickle your brain meats! What? You thought we carried such drab materials as potions or swords? BAH! What we deal in…is inspiration! Need a story? Come in and see what catches your fancy! Need a plan to deal with those dastardly adventurers? We got barrels full of em.

No, really, its starting to become a problem.

Today on offer, I present the following 5 pieces of Bait! Perhaps one will tantalize you? Entice you? Inspire you?

Oh and no charge, at least for today. Consider these a fine sample of our wares. Welcome to the Bait Shop. I hope you can hook a good one with these!


Continue reading “The Bait Shop Edition 2”

100 Magical Items and Where to Find Them: A Review

Hello my Nerdy Friends! Today, courtesy of my patron and friend Yubi, I got a new product for Dungeons and Dragons ready to review, break down, and present to you.

Titled “100 Magical Items and Where to Find Them” this PDF is exactly what it sounds like: a bunch of magical items and locations where they are located. To be exact, we have 10 locations which are things like “A Bustling Library” or “A Crowded Casino“, and then each location houses 10 unique items within them.

As you can see from the table of contents, the locations are a mix of standard places like a Haunted Cove or the aforementioned Library, to more unique places like a Razed Hamlet or the aforementioned Casino. Each page in this PDF details one of these 10 locations with its title, a brief description of a “style” of this location, an image or two to represent the location, and then the 10 magical items.

I say magical items but frankly these are more a mix of trinkets and actual items. You can have something as basic as magical color changing ink, or you can have a magical sound proof hat that can absorb damage. You won’t find magical swords, axes, or armors in these pages. More likely, you will find things that would fall under the “Wondrous Item” heading in the Dungeon Masters Guide. Also the items are numbered one to ten so if you need to you can randomly generate one of the items.

Now, one thing I want to specifically mention about this PDF is the formatting. Its easy to read sure, and it uses the standard “parchment” styled coloration and text, but its in LANDSCAPE rather then the standard book / portrait style! At first I was a tiny bit confused as to why this was, but when I asked Yubi they pointed out that since most of us are going to read this on a computer or a tablet, and those tend to be in widescreen format….meaning that a pdf in widescreen is SUPER EASY TO READ! Like I cannot believe I had not thought about this, and frankly, after reading this PDF I am very happy with the format. It was very easy to get each page to be full on my screen and still readable.

Further, this item on the DMs Guild comes with an “Accessible” version, which is in Portrait but designed and test to be used with screen readers, meaning those with sight issues can still enjoy and use this document. This is a very handy item to have, and a good idea for folx in the future to consider if they are able and willing to take that extra bit of time.

100 Magical Items and Where to Find Them is a steal at $2, available here on the DMs Guild. While some of the items can seem a bit odd or useless (like the color changing ink) there is enough here that most GMs / DMs will find useful or at least interesting, and many of the items could be used or expanded on to create something vastly more unique. Also, since there are basically no stats (and only a few items reference specific spells), this is less a 5th Edition document and more System Neutral document. I could easily use basically anything in here in any generic fantasy game I ran.

As always thanks for reading everyone and Stay Nerdy!  Make sure to follow me on TwitchYoutubeTwitter, and join my Steam Group and Steam Curator pages!  Pledge to my Patreon!  Spread the word on social media & help me get out there so I can bring even more content to the masses.  You do want more content yes?

Oath Breaking in Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition

Hello everyone!  Today, thanks to a twitter question a few days ago, I decided to write up some thoughts about oath breaking in dungeons and dragons.  Currently, in 5th Edition, there are 3 classes that derive their power from an external source or oath they make: Warlocks, Paladins, and Clerics.

In older editions, these classes were much more restrictive in how your character had to be in order to play them.  A good example is that Paladins originally could only be Lawful Good, or Clerics had to be within 1 “step” of their Gods alignment.  However, in 5th Edition these restrictions no longer exist, and in fact your Cleric and Paladin, despite channeling divine energy, don’t even have to belong to a church or religion!  If you wanted, your Paladin could just believe in the power of Justice and channel that raw energy into their powers, or your Cleric could believe in the sheer raw power of Life and use that to channel their power.  And Warlocks?  Well they make a deal, a direct deal with some entity who gives them power in exchange for “something”.

But beliefs can change.  Oath’s broken.  Deal’s broken.  And what should happen when a Cleric no longer truly believes in the power of Life?  What happens when a Paladin and their belief in Justice is challenged to the point where they lose faith?  What happens when the Warlock decides to break the terms of their deal?

Currently, in 5th Edition, not a damn thing mechanically.  And sometimes these issues do in fact crop up.  The question I was asked, for example, was how to handle a Cleric whose god had abandoned them.  But all sorts of similar issues and challenges could crop up in a game, and handling them appropriately is not always the easiest thing to do.  So I wanted to bring up a few ideas I had on how to handle these, without completely making a character unfun to play but also making their decisions, and choices, matter.

WARLOCKS

These folks are honestly the easiest and hardest to work with.  Easy in the sense that each Warlock has made some sort of deal with an entity in exchange for gifts.  These gifts are their Pacts, their Boons, and their Magic.  But what happens when that Warlock wants out?  Perhaps the Patron has demanded something the Warlock refuses to do?  How do you penalize the Warlock in a way that both makes sense and doesn’t make the player feel punished?

It could be as simple as the Patron locking out some of the powers the Warlock has, until the Warlock does what the Patron wants.  For example, perhaps they lose access to their Pact feature, or their Spells.  I would never take all the Warlock’s power away for doing this, as it makes more sense that some of the power is the Warlocks own awakened abilities, and some of it is granted by their Patron.  This is assuming the Warlock didn’t steal their power form the entity, which is always possible.  I would discuss with the player out of game the ramifications of their choice, and what their Patron COULD and WOULD do to them.  Make sure you are not going to ruin the fun of the player.

You could also offer the choice of the player finding a NEW Patron!  No one says that you can’t break one deal to forge another.  Perhaps the Warlock has forged a back with one Devil, and that Devil’s rival finds out about the broken deal.  It comes along, offering to reinstate the Warlock’s power in exchange for perhaps working against the first Devil.  Things like that are always options and could provide entire storylines for the party to follow.

PALADINS

A paladin in fifth edition is not powered by any god, but rather an ideal.  A belief in a single thing (the power of Justice, of Vengeance, of Conquest, of the Natural Order, ect) that is so strong it causes them to become a Champion of that ideal.  But, at times, a belief can change.  If a paladin has lost their faith, and no longer truly believes in the ideal fueling them, I feel there are a couple of ways to deal with this.

First, the paladin should lose access to all but their most basic abilities.  All class features unique to their Oath should be removed until they either deal with their internal crisis of faith, or perhaps find a new idea to believe in and thus CHANGE to a new Oath.  I would leave them with first level spell slots, and smite, as even having worked with the divine should cause them to be able to access the most basic of powers.  Their basic paladin class features that they have earned should also remain intact as well, as I feel those are changes they have gained from BEING infused with Divine Power.  Obviously they would not lose their martial training either.

From there, it’s all up to the paladin player.  Perhaps after some roleplaying, and some questing, they decide that Justice is no longer their path, but Vengeance is.  Perhaps they were betrayed by a friend and it hurt them so much that only getting pure revenge on that person will satiate them.  Again, discuss with your player the ramifications of their choice, and work with them to come up with a way for them to either gain a new Oath, or regain what they lost.  As this is a vital story change for a character.  The power of belief that fuels a Paladin is immense, and losing that faith is a big deal.  Further, I would most likely ask them to not take class levels in Paladin until they solve their crisis of Faith.

CLERICS

Now we get to the most interesting case for me.  A Cleric is, in effect, a priest of a faith.  A herald of a god or ideal.  They worship this thing, and if they lose faith in what they worship, what should happen to them?  They could also run into the issue where their faith is challenged, either by their god demanding something of them, or a clash of morals in some fashion.

While a Warlock has a one on one deal with an Entity, a Cleric’s power is all one way: From their God or Faith.  And because of that, it’s entirely possible to lose all access to their powers.  Now, this primarily becomes an issue if the Cleric is part of a Gods Faith.  For the Clerics who believe in an ideal, they should be treated similar to Paladins.  If a Cleric who believes in the power of Life itself becomes jaded, and no longer has the same belief, they should lose access to all but their First level spells, domain spells, and any unique Domain Features until they either regain the faith, or find a new believe (perhaps the life cleric no longer believes life is sacred, and turns to the dark powers of the Grave in an attempt to decide who lives and dies, for example).

If a Cleric worships a Deity, however, things can get more interesting.  If it’s simply a matter of the Cleric no longer believing in their god, you could treat them as above until their faith is restored or until they find a new god to worship. However, it could be that the Cleric has angered their god, or the god simply abandons the Cleric because of the Clerics actions.  At this point, the cleric should lose access to all but their first level spells, their domain, and its features.  Now, depending on WHY the God has done this, you can have a couple of options.  Perhaps the God demands a quest of the Cleric, a mission to prove their worthiness and faith in order to regain what was lost.  Perhaps the god demands tribute, or a sacrifice of some kind.  Whatever the reason, the Cleric should have to accomplish something in order to regain their Gods trust in order to wield the divine powers the God grants.

Again, work with your Cleric player for the details, as such events should be rare.  No God is going to want a Cleric who jumps around from Faith to Faith for instance.

Now obviously these are just some basic ideas on how to handle these classes breaking their sacred oaths and what you could do to represent the loss in game.  Always talk to your players before you do such things, as no one should have their fun ruined because they suddenly lose things they didn’t know they COULD lose.  And hey, you could always ignore these ideas!  They are, after all, just some extra options based on how things used to be done in the older editions.

As always thanks for reading everyone and Stay Nerdy!  Make sure to follow me on TwitchYoutubeTwitter, and join my Steam Group and Steam Curator pages!  Pledge to my Patreon!  Spread the word on social media & help me get out there so I can bring even more content to the masses.  You do want more content yes?

Pathology: The Champion Fighter – Simple. Effective. Brutal.

Hello everyone and welcome to a brand new edition of Pathology, and today I am bringing you what I would personally consider the easiest and most simplistic class and path combination in 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons, the Champion Fighter.  Now, make no mistake, while this class is simple and easy to play mechanically, they are still very VERY good at what they do.

What they do, by the way, is pick a target and murderize it.  They do this very well indeed.

Dragonborn Fighter by Perry Zielonka click the image to view his Artstation Page

The Champion Fighter is possibly the best new player class in the game. They have no spells, no real special abilities to remember outside of what every fighter gets, and are brutally effective in combat with their heavy armor, high hit points, and multiple attacks.  Put simply, if all you want to do is hit a thing till it stops moving in the most simple way possible, then be a Champion Fighter.

Normally I don’t bring up the base line class abilities in these articles, however for the Champion Fighter the base line fighter abilities all play a role in the path’s usage.  Fighters are proficient with all armor and shields, as well as simple and martial weapons.  You can wield a rapier in full plate, or a great sword in leather armor, it’s all the same to the Fighter.  Right at first level you gain a Fighting Style as well as Second Wind, both of which play a big part in how you play your Champion Fighter.

The Fighting Style gives you a bonus based on the sort of weapon you wield, while Second Wind grants you the ability, as a bonus action and once per short/long rest, to regain some hit points during a fight.  Both of these are staple abilities of all fighters, and the Champion is no different.  At level 3 you gain your Champion path as well.

Also at 2nd level you gain Action Surge, an amazingly powerful ability for a Fighter, and the reason many people take 2 levels of fighter as other classes.  This singular ability allows you, the Fighter, to take a single full additional action on your turn once per long or short rest.  At level 17 you can do this TWICE per long/short rest, but not on the same turn.  This is massive. This allows you, at level 20, to attack a full 8 times in a single turn on two different turns, for example.

Also, just as a note, the Fighter class gains a total of 7 Ability Score Increases as they level up.  This is a huge amount of power gain, an effective +14 Ability Points.  Also, by level 20 you will have the ability to make a total of 4 attacks when taking the Attack action, more than any other single class.  You also gain Indomitable which lets you reroll a failed saved once per long rest at level 11.

Now, as far as Champion specific abilities they are all very basic, no flash to em, but every single one of them increases your ability to punish the enemy and crush them under the heel of your boots.  First, you gain Improved Critical at levels 3 and 15.  At first, this increases your critical range to 19-20 (level 3), and then 18-20 (level 15).  Most only have a 5% chance on a D20 roll (a 20) to gain a critical strike, but the Champion eventually has a 15% chance to get a Critical.  This is a huge damage boost, especially over your 4 normal attacks or 8 Action Surged attacks.  You also gain another Fighting Style at level 10 to complement your first one, Remarkable Athlete which lets you add half your proficiency bonus to STR, DEX, and CON checks that you don’t have your Proficiency Bonus added to already (such as Untrained Acrobatics checks, for example).  Your capstone power as a Champion at level 18 is the ability Survivor, which causes you to regain 5 + Con Modifier HP per turn if you are at less than half HP and not at zero HP.  This means that taking a Champion down can be very difficult given they start with a d10 Hit Die.

Reading all that, you can again see the Champion is super simple mechanically.  You gain a bunch of attacks, only a few activated powers, and boosted critical chance.  In essence, as I said, the Champion is all about picking a single target and hitting them till they stop moving.

Now for this article what I am going to do is break down how I would build an Adventure League legal Champion Fighter, and what I would do at each level.  Normally I don’t do full character builds, but I wanted to give an example of how, despite the simplistic nature of the path, you can build something that is still fun to play and powerful feeling.  We will be using the Adventurer League stat array (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8) for this build.  As a note I am not including feats, as they are an optional rule and are up to your GM/DM as to whether or not they are allowed.

I would select either Half Orc, Human, or Dwarf as the race.  Their racial bonuses all work well here and all three races have a tendency to birth great fighters.  Half Orc in particular gives you +2 Strength and +1 Constitution, which fits very well for a offensive oriented fighter like the Champion.

So with a Half Orc as our race we are looking at the following for stats at level 1:

  • Str          16 (14 +2 for Race)
  • Con        16 (15 +1 for Race)
  • Dex        13
  • Int          10
  • Wis         12
  • Cha        8

Having a Wisdom bonus is a good idea as many of the spells that can lock a character down are Wisdom based.  Cha and Int are the least useful attributes for this class.  Given that you will be getting a total of 14 Ability Points as we level, you can easily get your Str and Con both to 20 (the maximums) and then still have 6 points left over to play with.

Now before we choose our Class skills I always like to select a background.  This is because our Background will automatically give us training in 2 skills along with some other perks.  For me, and this build, I would choose Soldier.  I like the idea of an ex-soldier turned mercenary who adventures because they are good at fighting, they didn’t like military life, and the money is a whole lot better as a mercenary.  Make them Chaotic Good, so they have some ethics on who they work for and how much they charge them.  As a soldier we get Athletics & Intimidation as trained skills, and then we get two more from the Fighter List.  Let’s take Survival and Perception.  We won’t be the best at these as they are Wisdom based, however it makes sense for an Ex-Soldier turned Merc to know how to spot danger and survival off the land and track.  You also get proficiency in Str and Con saves.

Now at 1st level we get our Second Wind ability and our first Fighting Style.  I see this character as a big bruiser type, using huge weapons, so I would take Great Weapon Fighting as my style here.  Great Weapon allows you to reroll 1’s and 2’s on your damage dice each time you roll damage, taking the new results when using any weapon with 2 hands.  This allows for much higher potential damage on average.

Since I can start my adventure with any Martial Weapon I want (And then either a spare weapon or shield) I can easily start with a Great Sword (Slashing Damage) and a Maul (Bludgeoning Damage) or Warhammer (Lighter, but still Bludgeoning and able to use both one handed AND two handed).  You want to cover damage types so you can deal with things like Skeletons and Zombies early on.  From here on leveling is pretty simple.  Let’s take a look at the levels in detail and how I would build from here.

  • Level 1:                 Great Weapon Fighting and Second Wind
  • Level 2:                 Action Surge
  • Level 3:                 Champion Path, gain Improved Critical (19-20 crit chance with all weapons)
  • Level 4:                 Ability Score Increase (+2 Str, now 18 Str for +4 to Hit / Damage)
  • Level 5:                 +1 Attacks (2) when using the Attack Action
  • Level 6:                 Ability Score Increase (+2 Str, now 20 Str so +5 to Hit / Damage
  • Level 7:                 Remarkable Athlete Champion Ability
  • Level 8:                 Ability Score Increase (+2 Con, now 18 Con, for more HP)
  • Level 9:                 Indomitable (1 use)
  • Level 10:              Second Fighting Style (Defense is good for a global +1 AC in Armor)
  • Level 11:              +1 Attacks (3) when using the Attack Action
  • Level 12:              Ability Score Increase (+2 Con, now 20 Con, for more HP)
  • Level 13:              Indomitable (2 use)
  • Level 14:              Ability Score Increase (+2 Wis, now 14 Wis, better Wis Saves / Skills)
  • Level 15:              Superior Critical from Champion (18-20 crit chance with all weapons)
  • Level 16:              Ability Score Increase (+2 Wis, now 16 Wis, better Wis Saves / Skills)
  • Level 17:              2 uses of Action Surge, 3 of Indomitable now
  • Level 18:              Survivor from Champion Path
  • Level 19:              Ability Score Increase (+2 Wis, now 18 Wis, better Wis Saves / Skills)
  • Level 20:              +1 Attacks (4) when using the Attack Action

So at level 20 you have 20 Strength, 20 Constitution, 18 Wisdom, 4 base attacks per round, 2 uses of Action Surge per short/long rest, and an 18-20 Critical Range, rerolling 1’s and 2’s on damage (once) with your big 2 handed weapons. To put this in math terms, you will have a total of +11 (+6 Prof Bonus +5 Str Mod) Base to hit with your weapons, and on a hit deal 2d6+5 damage (average on 2d6+5 is (7+5) 12 damage) per swing, assuming no critical hits, 4 times in a single round, which is 48 damage (per hit).  And you will most likely hit more often than not, as most enemies don’t have ACs higher than 24 or 25.  The CR 24 Ancient Red Dragon, for example, has a 22 AC.  This means you will hit nearly 50% of the time on each swing without any assistance.

In fact an Ancient Red Dragon has, on average, 546 HP.  If the Champion hits all 4 times in a single round with no critical hits they are doing on average 192 damage alone.  That’s with no help whatsoever.  That Dragon will not be having a good day after a few rounds with the Champion, never mind a full party behind them adding their own damage and support to the fight.

Found on Pintrest

Additionally, taking average HP Every level, you will have 224 HP at level 20 with an AC of around 19 without a shield wearing plate mail.  If you use a 1 hander and shield you are looking at a 21 AC, which is nothing to sneeze at defensively (if you take Defense Style as I would)

Equipment wise you will want is Plate Mail and a Great Sword / Great Axe / Maul and then a 1 handed weapon of some sort with a shield.  Magical if you can get them because that just makes everything better.  Make sure that you try to get a short rest in anytime you use your Action Surge as well, as that will make sure you can fully utilize your big move every fight possible.  Also you will want thrown weapons for ranged attacks, or a good bow.

Oh and if you are a Cleric (or Anyone with access to the spell Bless) and have a fighter of ANY type in your party?  Consider using Bless more often.  It adds 1d4 to EVERY Attack Roll and Save the targets make…including all 4 of the Fighters basic attacks.  This is quite the boost to a fighters accuracy and honestly might be better than Haste in most cases unless the Fighter needs the boost to movement speed (i.e. a Dwarf and their 20ft movement a round vs most everyone else’s 30ft)

Simple.  Effective.  Brutal.

And honestly, possibly the character I use in future one shots and even maybe the next Campaign I get to play in.  Already got a name for them too: Gunther, the Half Orc Soldier turned Merc with a heart of gold, and always willing to lend a hand, assuming the price is right.  Price is of course dictated by social standing.  Can’t charge peasants the same as a lord after all.  We have a sliding scale around here.

Let me know in the comments if you ever played a Champion Fighter!  If so, what was the build / setup and backstory?  Why did you choose the Champion, and would you ever play one again?

For more Pathology Articles and Class Breakdowns, just Check out this Tag!
As always thanks for reading everyone and Stay Nerdy!  Make sure to follow me on TwitchYoutubeTwitter, and join my Steam Group and Steam Curator pages!  Pledge to my Patreon!  Spread the word on social media & help me get out there so I can bring even more content to the masses.  You do want more content yes?

My Dream Virtual Tabletop

Picture this:

You open up this Software, punch in or select the server you want to connect to. When you load up, you are looking out in First Person into a 3D World. The DM is already there, of course, and is invisible. You hit a button and pull up your character sheet, checking your inventory. Your friends all load in, and over the voice chat, you hear your DM start to speak “When last we left off, you had entered the Caves of Dread, to hunt the goblin warlord Smark. Before you stands a set of iron doors” and you turn your camera around to SEE the doors, standing there, surrounded by the rough stone of the cave. One of the others in your party goes up to the doors, and you can see their character model, a dwarf in heavy armor. They say “I open the door!” and the GM has the door open, and through it you can see 6 goblins, all standing around beds and tables. “The goblins appear to be engrossed in something and don’t notice you!” You all get ready to enter combat, and you hear the DM say “Roll Initiative!”

I love tabletop RPGs. But I never play in person anymore. Thanks to technology, I actually don’t have to. Between Roll20, Fantasy Grounds, Power VTT, and then other options like Play by Post forums, Tabletop Simulator, or Discord RPing I have a wealth of options for virtual tabletop.

But I still feel we as a hobby are not fully utilizing the power of technology. You see, right now the big Virtual Tabletop systems mimic one very specific style of play: Grid maps + Tokens. Tabletop Simulator enables the use of minis and terrain, but it has its own issues (which I will discuss later).

What I want to see is an advancement in tech for Virtual styled tabletops. Above, I give an example of the kind of thing I really want to see. A Fully 3D world, explored by the party in First Person and built by the DM for their game. Imagine that.

The idea came to me from a literal dream. I had this dream that someone had, essentially, modded Minecraft. They had added in a full DND Character Sheet, with clickable rolling like Roll20 has. They added in a dice roller as well, and monster sheets for the models. Someone had created models for the game as well, stuff like Dragons, Beholders, and so on. In my dream, I was the GM, and the players got to explore a full 3D town, climb around, and look at things in detail. While shopping they got to enter a shop with shelves full of items that I described, and got to talk to a shopkeeper who had a stationary model in place. It was a wild dream. And its stuck with me for a long time.

And the simple fact is: We have the technology to DO THIS!

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are options out there that sorta kinda do this, such as Divinity Original Sin 2’s DM mode, or Neverwinter Nights, or even the aformentioned Tabletop Simulator, but they dont do it exactly the way I want. To break it down, here is what my dream VTT would have:

System Neutral, with support for multiple character sheets.

  1. 3D World. Whether Voxel based (Minecraft) or more like Skyrim, I want 3D Explorable spaces
  2. GM Control. The GM can add or subtract anything they want, teleport characters around, ect.
  3. Character Customization. Players should be able to make their avatars look like their characters, as best as they can. Not with equipable gear mind, but at least hair, eye color, species, ect
  4. Dice Roller, and Clickable Character Sheets. Look at Roll20 and how they do their character sheets and you get the idea
  5. Non Grid Movement for Out of Combat, and Grid Movement (if wanted) for IN combat.
  6. Voice Chat. You don’t really need Webcams in this case built in, because you will BE your character, but having built in voice would be handy
  7. First Person perspective. I want to feel like I AM my character when playing.
  8. Community Content Support. Similar to the Roll20 Marketplace, I want people to be able to sell new Prefab buildings, new tiles, new monster and character model options.
  9. Multiplayer (OBVIOUSLY).
  10. Persistence. we need to be able to save the world state at all times, so people can load in right where they left off.

Imagine if you were playing Skyrim, but with a GM controlling everything around you. Thats the kind of vision I have (although graphically I would be fine with Minecraft TBH)

When you enter the Invulnerable Vagrant, you could SEE the shop, SEE the shelves, SEE Pumat Sol!
When you explore Waterdeep you could go find the Yawning Portal Tavern, go into the back and see the descent into Undermountain! See the patrons, hell hear the music!
You could wander the streets of your homebrew world, in realtime

Immersion would be off the charts. And thats what I really want.

Not everyone will, however. Personally, I love the idea of merging Tech and Tabletop more and more, at least for those of us who play online exclusivly. And if people did not want immersive enviroments I am pretty sure things like Dwarven Forge would not exist. The entire point of that is to create 3D maps for players to move their minis through and see the amazing visual representation of the world.

I want that but for us online players, because right now? We do not have it.

Now bear in mind, there are some alternative options out there that kinda sorta do this, or have tried to.

First, we got Tabletop Simulator, a piece of software that does exact what its name says. It simulates an actual physical table. You can play board games with it, wargames, and yes Tabletop. It even has a store with models that could mimic Dwarven Forge style boards. The issues however is one of performance. The thing renders each item in real time, and all of the items have physics, which means the bigger you make a map or the more details you have, the slower EVERYTHING gets. My PC struggled with a card game I played on it for a stream because it renders EACH CARD. Its an option, but its not first person which removes the immersion factor I want. Cost for this is also $20 a copy. You can purchase it on steam here.

Next we have an older option, Neverwinter Nights. I played the HELL out of this game when it was released, both the main campaign for the base game and each expansion, and TONS of custom modules. Its honestly a great option…if you want 3rd Edition DND only, and dont mind Isometric Perspective. But honestly, if this were first person, with the town / world design options, and I could run 3rd Ed, 4th Ed, Storyteller (World of Darkness), 5th Ed DND, Savage Worlds, ect in it? It would be almost perfect. It was BUILT to be a digital tabletop option for DND, and its still the BEST option for 3rd Ed gaming if you want to use it. Seriously, if you play 3rd Ed DND, and you can drop $20 on the Enhanced Edition this is a great great GREAT option, especially with all the community added content, adding in things like Prestige Classes, new base classes, models, ect. Just the Isometric View may not be for everyone. The 3rd person camera mode is…kinda bad (control wise) so I never used it. It MIGHT work ok? Maybe? Thought, to be honest, even single player the game is worth your time so ya might wanna snag it on steam here.

Finally, we have Divinity Original Sin 2 and its GM mode. Now in this case, its a newer game, good controls, and solid option with tons of customization. However, the game you play will STILL be Divinity Original Sin 2. Mechanically, you have to effectively learn a whole new system in order to play this. Its again Isometric as well, and I want first person. Thankfully the single player is well loved, and has co op, so its still a good game, but for what I am after this really does not fit the bill whatsoever. Its also $45 a copy on steam here.

The simple fact is we have the technology for some enterprising dev out there to create this insane idea, and I hope that in the future someone DOES grab onto this. Without using VR this is as close as we can truly get to living and playing in the worlds we all create together, and I for one would love to be able to explore Faerun, Sigil, and my own worlds in 3D with my friends, taking them on adventures, showing them the magical places created by myself and maybe others, and feeling like we truly are our characters.

Thanks for reading, and one day I hope to explore some magical worlds with you. Stay Nerdy everyone.