the_gneech: (Conan Civilization Sucks)
I've been reading a long thread from late in 4E's lifecycle that was Let's Read 4E (From an Oldschooler's Perspective). It's been very interesting to see 4E discussed pro-and-con from the point of view of people who like it, rather than just flames from either direction in the era of edition warring.

Now I've got my own list of 4E pro-and-con points, but the one that drives me the most bonkers is what is famously referred to as the "disassociated mechanics." A lot of 4E stuff seems like random bags of powers designed to fill some game design function, with the story convoluted around to make sense of it, which for me is bass-akwards. Even in HERO System, the King of Disassociated Mechanics Rulesets, the powers are supposed to simulate what story-wise the character is intended to be doing.

Anyway, buried deep in the discussion, there was a recommendation of 13th Age as being a game system that has a lot of the same strengths as 4E but was simpler and faster. I decided to check it out, downloading a sample PDF, and found a batch of orcs which had an attack that did weapon damage, and then on a crit, added +[x] psychic damage.

I just blinked, and tried to parse it. I didn't see anything suggesting these were somehow magical orcs (although I was skimming, so I might have missed it). As far as I could tell, it was just randomly stuck on.

Later on I found references to the Essentials line Monster Vault series as being better than the core Monster Manuals, so I scrounged up a copy of one of those to look at (Threats of Nentir Vale, I think it was), and happened upon a wight whose attack did "[x] damage, and the wight turns invisible."

Again, just sorta, "Why?" I mean, there's no reason for wights not to turn invisible, I suppose, but that's the sort of behavior I'd expect from spooks rather than the walking dead.

Now 5E has a little bit of the opposite problem: most of the 5E critters have movement, and an attack (or bunch of attacks), and little else. I discussed this in detail on an ENWorld thread using the hippogriff as an example. The 4E hippogriff has an interesting "land on somebody and knock them down" ability on top of their regular attack, while the 5E hippogriff just does damage. (Plus, more than half the 5E Monster Manual entries are CR 2 or lower, which even with bounded accuracy is still a bizarre distribution.)

I've been threading this particular needle by doing a fair amount of monster customizing. I have the 4E Monster Manual and Monster Manual 2 on the same shelf with my 5E books to fish for ideas when I want to punch up a dull 5E critter.

But I'm still not going to have randomly-psychic orcs. ¬.¬

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Rastan Kill Monsters)
We played the second session of The Keep On the Borderlands last night, or as I like to call it, "The Kobold Armageddon of 2016."

The session picked up from where we left last time, with the heroes marching forth to find the Caves of Chaos. With the super-helpful directions they'd received from Old Bob ("go that way until you find a road"), and possibly because they had a wood elf ranger on the team, they did eventually manage to find an ancient and overgrown roadbed that eventually led them right there.


The Caves of Chaos, as painted by Michael Komarck


It turns out they actually were several different caves, all nestled in a ravine, that was lined with bones, twisted trees, and the occasional hungry-looking vulture. After a bit of discussing possible approaches, the group finally picked a promising-looking tunnel and decided to scout it out, with Nikki the anthro flying squirrel rogue scurrying up a tree to gain a good vantage point.

It was then that Nikki discovered that there was already a kobold in the tree, waiting in ambush for parties approaching the cave. Battle quickly commenced.

Because of where the players had specifically described positioning themselves, they were actually in a pretty good position to take on the kobolds, who instead of dropping on them from above had to leap down from the trees and run to the characters to engage. One of them attempted a heroic leap from one tree to another, only to botch its Athletics check and faceplant into the dirt.

This pretty much set the tone for the rest of the night. To put it mildly, the opposition was not having a good dice night.

The party made short work of the would-be ambushers, who all died saying things like "I'm sooo hungryyyy..." or "Lunch huuurts..." or (in the case of one who got a burning hands to the face) "I smell delicioussss..." Post-battle wrap up made it evident that these were lean and hungry, malnourished kobolds, who really needed a sandwich. Combined with the party's discovery in the last session of a band of kobolds who'd been wiped out by goblins, it became clear that these kobolds were at the bottom of the Caves of Chaos pecking order.

Togar the paladin and Sheala the wizard felt some sympathy for the poor kobolds; Nikki and Miskan the purrsian bard did not.

Into the kobold cave the party forged, quickly coming upon a guardpost just inside. Neither side had the advantage of surprise, and so each side simply waded into battle. Like the ambush outside, these kobolds were malnourished and clearly wearing thin. As Sheala advanced to get a better position, she stumbled onto a disguised pit trap, but succeeded her saving throw to keep from falling in. Rina the elf ranger attempted to leap past the pit, but botched the roll and fell down in, with the lid closing behind her, briefly taking her out of the fight.

The party quickly mowed down half of the kobold guards, causing the other half to run for reinforcements, shouting out alarms. They were knocked out by a well-placed sleep spell, but there was a new problem to face– swarms of rats, bursting through the walls of the pit, threatening to devour Rina alive. Brother Drang went down the corridor the guards had fled down to make sure they didn't wake up and make another break for it, while the rest of the party hurried to get Rina out of the pit, slamming the lid shut again on the rat swarms. They figured out that there were planks by the side of the pit, apparently what the kobolds used to come and go without falling into it, and so the party set out the planks so they could also safely avoid the pit themselves.

Then, the kobold horde came.

Crown of the Kobold KingA seemingly-endless stream of kobolds surged up the corridor towards Brother Drang. Miskan briefly distracted the front ranks with an illusion of a sumptuous banquet, causing some of the kobolds to roll around in the illusory food like Scrooge McDuck rolling around in gold, and others to try to "eat" as much of the food as possible before their fellows could beat them to it. This gave Brother Drang the opening he needed to wade in and let loose with a thunderwave spell, blasting half a dozen kobolds and sending their bodies flying, but also making a tremendous boom that drew the attention of the kobold king and his personal guard.

Despite the devastation, the kobold horde kept coming, more of their warriors clambering over the bodies of their slain fellows. Now with the king there to provide discipline, the kobolds ignored the banquet illusion and began to attack in earnest, using their pack tactics to try to overwhelm Brother Drang. He blasted several more with another thunderwave, but it was clear that the tide was about to turn. Back at the cave entrance, the rat swarms had made their way out of the pit from somewhere down another corridor and returned, climbing all over Sheala and attempting to devour her alive.



Deciding that enough was enough, the party beat feet. Once everyone was past the pit, they pulled up the planks but Miskan (covered in rats but managing to succeed at a concentration check) cast another illusion that the planks were still there– this gave the party time to get away as the front row of kobold warriors went crashing down into the pit, and the rat swarms moved in for the feast.

It was a bad day to be a kobold. By the time the party made it back to a safe camp and managed a short rest, their tally came up with 30 kobolds slain.

Curse Your Sudden But Inevitable Betrayal!


They decided to return to the Keep to rest and heal up. There they once again found Brother Sampson, who bought them all drinks to toast their heroic slaughter of a bunch of starving kobolds. They spent the evening in conversation with him, finally coming to the conclusion that he had some form of past history with the mysterious cult in the Caves, despite his reluctance to go into details. While Sheala got blind drunk to forget the horrors of being swarmed by rats, Togar invited Brother Sampson to join the party on their next foray, despite Brother Drang's reluctance to trust the traveling monk.

The next morning, the party set out again. Based on Brother Sampson's information that the gnolls (who had kidnapped the Castellan's daughter) were in the upper caves, the party decided to go overland and come at the Caves of Chaos from the top, instead of climbing their way up from the bottom of the ravine. They stopped briefly at a ruined watchtower at the top of the ridge, deciding it would be a good place to make camp if they needed to later, then continued on to the Caves.

They picked what had once been clearly a finished opening with pillars and a terrace, now crumbled to ruin by the passage of time, and went into it, despite the ominous feel and stale, rank smell of it. Inside they found a grand, vaulted hallway with tile floors. Picking a direction, they found some closed doors, and listening at one, they heard hushed voices of conversation. Nikki, with a prodigious Stealth roll, snuck into the room and found several priests? Scholars? dressed in yellow robes, engaged in what could best be described as "evil prayer group."

The party swarmed in to attack, taking the cultists completely by surprise– only to have Brother Sampson and his acolytes attack the party from behind! [1] Unfortunately for Brother Sampson, the dice weren't being any better to him than they had been to the kobolds. Three attempts to cast hold person were thwarted by PCs making their saving throws, and his acolytes couldn't land significant damage on anyone. Meanwhile the cultists inside the room were cut down like so much wheat– even one who was healed up and had sanctuary cast on him couldn't escape without taking too many attacks of opportunity and dropping. Another sleep spell took down Brother Sampson, and the fight was over.

The party quickly cleaned up the mess, dragging the bodies into the cultists' room and closing the door, and tying up Brother Sampson with intention to interrogate, and we ended the session there. The party ended up one malnourished kobold away from hitting 3rd, so I was glad they only killed 30 instead of 31. ;P But as I said on Twitter, this group survived one of the three classic TPK spots of The Keep On the Borderlands and then went straight up to the Chaos Temple and began their incursion. This team is hard core, and I'm not going to worry about things being too tough for them any more. If anything, I'm going to have to make sure things aren't too easy for them.

Time to kick things up a notch. };)

-The Gneech

[1] Ah, a good old Gary Gygax adventure. Three out of four people you meet will try to kill you. Is it a wonder players used to just kill anyone/anything they found in a dungeon?
the_gneech: (Rastan Kill Monsters)

(To the tune of “We Didn’t Start the Fire…” by Billy Joel)


Celedras, Arcangalad

Arshan’s always kinda mad

I haven’t played you for a while

Obsidian kills her foes with style


Maedhroc gives his foes the boot

Elsa’s tough but awfully cute

1E rules are dumb and hard

but they made my super-bard


(Singin’)

Referees don’t get to play much

We get all excited, tho we try to hide it

Referees don’t get to play much

But there’ll be no game, if I’m not DM


Playing Lachwen was a blast

but MMO fun doesn’t last

I don’t wanna spend the cash right now

to play my panda monk in WoW


But oh on tabletop to play again

Or just once for my paladin

The 3E rules were quite a cage

for Theran, my poor fighter-mage


My halfling ranger doesn’t have a name

I’d love to play him all the same


My human ranger had a plot device


but tough luck I suck at rolling dice


Natural 1’s all day!

No foes I’ll slay!


What else do I have to say?


(Singin’)

Referees don’t get to play much

We get all excited, tho we try to hide it

Referees don’t get to play much

But there’ll be no game

If I am not

DM…


(fade)


-The Gneech


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the_gneech: (Conan Civilization Sucks)
As has been famously reported, we recently moved to Maryland. It's not that far from where we used to live, on the grand scheme of things, but it's far enough that a 40 minute semi-weekly commute to our old stomping grounds for D&D would add just-that-much more friction to games actually happening.

On top of that, one of our core players ([livejournal.com profile] jamesbarrett) has recently changed jobs such that Saturday night was no longer viable. All of this, combined with putting our lives on hold to get the move done, conspired to basically throw gaming down the hole for us. This is a major bummer, as my D&D campaign had just reached a major plot point, and as I've been famously posting, my Ghostbusters 5E conversion should be up and running soon.

So I'm looking at my options. Keeping the old band together would require pretty much going totally virtual... which is doable but I've never been fond of virtual gaming. For me, half of the point of tabletop RPGs is to be in the same room sharing the experience with the rest of the group.

The other option is to seek a new group. Beyond Comics up the street has organized play and could be a source of new players; our old friend Dan lives in Frederick and probably has a group we could try to get into. I would really like the opportunity to be a player instead of the DM for a while... but I'd hate to just wave goodbye to a group I've been gaming with since 1983. ¬.¬

So, still trying to work it out. Meanwhile, Overwatch is kinda-sorta standing in for my gaming itch. If I could find a regular crew to run with, I could see "Overwatch Night" being a cool and fun thing that lasted a while, in a sort of "digital bowling" way. (Overwatch is really more like a sports tournament than a roleplaying session.) It has that "team working together to accomplish an objective" part of a good RPG session, at least, even if it doesn't have things like plot or character development.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Party Guy)
Also Happy Gygax Day/Gamemaster Day!

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Boromir battle)
Woke up at oh-dark-thirty from the most explicitly Lovecraftian dream I can remember having– not just in the sense that it contained otherworldly monstrous horrors (which it did), but also in that the true horror was not at what the dream showed as what it implied. For all the corn of reading a Lovecraft story, that sh!t's pretty darn scary when it feels real and primal and in your face like that. And like Lovecraft, now that the dream's over, "I cannot and must not recall" is a pretty apt description of my feelings about it.

So instead, let's talk about gaming! Last night was the first session since January of [livejournal.com profile] jamesbarrett's game in which I play drow bard Obsidian. I was a bit confused as to how long it had been: I'm not sure why but my notes on the things we encountered and the loot we acquired was clearly dated July of 2014, but as my LJ indicates, it was actually January. Not sure what's up with that. Anyway, last night's session was mostly a link, between what had happened before and what is intended to come, but it was better than nothing and apparently gave Jamie's creative juices a bit of a jolt, so hopefully we can build on that momentum.

Meanwhile, [livejournal.com profile] sirfox laments that I haven't posted a summary of my last session yet. I hadn't actually intended to, but who am I to say no when apparently the audience is eager for something? ;) Unfortunately it was a few weeks ago now, so a lot of the details are hazy in my mind. But I can hit the high points.

When we last left our heroes they had been through several harrowing fights to make their way into the flooded sewer-catacombs under the late (now vampire) Captain Ballak's house. (Think the knight's tomb under Venice in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade except with statues of Orcus instead of Christian crusader iconography and you'll be on the right track.)

There was basically only one obstacle remaining between them and the final assault on the vampire's lair, which was a more deeply-flooded chamber (as in, chest height for humans, rather than the knee height water they'd been wading through) that had rapid currents leading to a vortex drain. At that depth, and with such a strong current, there was a real danger of being sucked into the whirlpool and lost. The result might not be fatal, but it certainly bad: I ruled that a character who got pulled down the drain would take 4d10 damage and be washed into the river five minutes later. The rules for suffocation in 5E are generous, but not completely trivial, and even for the barbarian that could be a one-way trip.

The party, realizing just how hazardous this could be, all tied themselves together, using the dwarven cleric as the anchor in front, and the 19 Str barbarian as the anchor in the back, and started to carefully make their way across– except for Morgo the Magnificent, who didn't want to get his robes any more ruined than they already were (nor did he want to be making Str checks the whole way) and spider climbed his way across the room. We can only assume he used mage hand to keep his robes from turning inside out and dangling over his head as he walked across the ceiling.

It turned out the party's paranoia was even more justified when a water weird, looking like a skull-headed version of the thing from The Abyss, reared up and started attempting to pour itself down [livejournal.com profile] lythandra's throat whether she wanted it to or not. A tense fight ensued, with the water weird attempting to pull people under, various team members losing hold of the rope and being pulled towards the vortex, having to catch themselves on outcroppings, and unsavory water tentacle face-squeezing action. Luckily, they were able to best the thing and escape without anyone going down the hole.

On the other side of the city's sink trap, a short passageway ended in a chamber empty except for a rather incongruous free-standing full-length mirror. Given the way the vampire had been scrying on the party through mirrors the whole time, their immediate instinct was to smash the thing, much to my consternation. That this would be their reaction had not occurred to me, but made perfect sense in context. Unfortunately, in the scenario as I had conceived it, this mirror was the only conduit between the vampire's "pocket dimension" lair and the prime material plane. While smashing the mirror would have sealed away the vampire, it would have also permanently trapped all its kidnapped victims with it on the other side, which would have been a pretty downer ending.

So I gave Elsa a chance to make a Wisdom check, on which she rolled a 16. Normally one of her flaws is that she acts without thinking and runs headlong into a situation, but this time she was actually the cautious one, saying "Why is there a mirror by itself down in this hole? Are we sure we want to just smash this thing before we know what it's about?" Reluctantly, the rest of the party agreed that she had a point and went over to investigate, finding that instead of reflecting the caves around them, the mirror showed a vista of swirling mists. Morgo groaned, saying, "We're going through that mirror, aren't we?" Short answer: yes.

Stepping through the mirror deposited the party on a narrow bridge made of bones, suspended in never-ending, swirling mists. Shadow realm? Some backwater spot on Orcus's level of hell? They had no idea and no real way of finding out, but Morgo decided they were somewhere in hell and announced it as such with perfect confidence either way. The party followed the bridge to a tower, also made of bones, upon which lurked winged demonic creatures, and in front of which stood more of Captain Ballak's mirror men. The vampire taunted them to "Come into my parlor..." and they decided that it was time to tear him up.

They charged forward, obliterating the mirror men in short order. Several of the creatures atop the tower, which for all their horns and creepy iris-less yellow eyes, looked suspiciously like winged kobolds, swooped down to join the fray, shooting at the party with demonic bows that shot arrows of fire. The kobolds from hell actually hurt the party more than the mirror men did, prompting the party to flee into the tower to get under cover. Of course, in the tower, they found Captain Ballak, a CR 4 dwarf vampire spawn wearing plate armor and able to draw on the Legendary Actions of a full-fledged vampire, as well as two more mirror men and some zombies, just to keep things interesting.

Like their previous fight in the ghoul shrine, the vampire's regeneration was a big problem for them this time. Being in plate armor, he was very difficult to hit, and they had to hit him hard enough and often enough to out-damage his regeneration (or shut it down). This task wasn't made any easier by the fact that demon kobolds were still hitting them with fire arrows; but the real problem was that the vampire had captives scattered around the room and could use Legendary Actions to basically move or act almost every time one of the PCs did, meaning he could simply keep running around the room sucking blood out of his victims to "top off" whatever hit points the regeneration didn't return.

This is where preparedness made all the difference: upon learning that they were going to be going down into a vampire's lair, [livejournal.com profile] sirfox had decided to head to the temple and pick up several vials of holy water and distribute them among the group. The party began lobbing said vials at Ballak like hand grenades. Several of them missed, smashing uselessly to the floor, but enough of them hit that Ballak started taking radiant damage almost every round, which shut down his regeneration. This caused the vampire to become a lot more aggressive– and being a skilled tactician (former captain of the Red Gauntlet, after all) he went after the glass cannon first, i.e., Morgo. He latched onto the wizard and began sucking blood for all he was worth, rapidly draining Morgo's life away. Morgo, in return, let loose with all the arcane fire he could muster, pouring damage into the vampire like it was water. By this time, Mei and Elsa had dealt with all the minions, and the party ganged up on Ballak.

By the time half of Ballak's face was burned off, he came to the conclusion that he'd taken a lot more damage than he intended to that day, released Morgo, and fled in his creepy spider climb-y way up the walls and across the room, heading for his "escape kit" stashed at the far end. Before he got there, however, [livejournal.com profile] sirfox hit him with a sacred flame that rolled max damage, blasting away the last of the vampire's hit points, immolating him. He fell from the wall and hit the floor, curling up into a blackened ball like a bug set on fire. Elsa then used one of her javelins as a makeshift stake through the burnt up cinder that was Ballak's heart, just to be sure.

High-fives all around.

The party grabbed what loot there was to find, including Ballak's scorched and gruesome plate armor, which [livejournal.com profile] sirfox claimed as a trophy, and escorted Ballak's prisoners (various other people involved with the trial that led to Ballak's execution, including Gimlet's one real friend in the Mintarn) back to safety, very carefully taking their time at the flooded vortex room. As a reward for their heroics, including the rescue of the judge (an important personage in the Argentine court), the party was summoned to meet Princess Adallin, the Duchess of Welltide.

Tylow seemed dubious, claiming that princesses don't really exist. When she turned out to be a shortish, frumpyish no-nonsense woman in her late thirties who said of their fight with the vampire "That must have been quite exciting, eh?" Tylow decided maybe princesses did exist after all. Princess Adallin was very interested in all the details of both Ballak's trial and his return from the grave; she had also been given reports of the party's activities in Welltide by Lord Sildar and was quite impressed by the group. She said that she wanted to give them a suitable reward but really didn't have any ideas, asking for suggestions. Only Gimlet had one immediately, which was that Ballak's plate armor be cleaned up, re-fashioned, and given some kind of enchantment, to which the Princess agreed, saying it would be done by the time the group was on their return trip from Starhold.

While in town, the party commissioned a few other magic items, including Elsa who reluctantly handed over her heirloom greatsword Zweihänder to get enough basic enchantment on it that she could hit things like vampires and not have the damage negated. The party then headed for the mountains, to continue their intended mission of delivering Brannar Diamondheart's request for mercenaries to Starhold.

My post-mortem? Refactoring the adventure was definitely the right call. The adventure as I had initially designed it would have been needlessly deadly, but worse it would have been grindy and dull. My original plan when I first crafted the scenario was to have another regenerating statue in Ballak's lair and several more mirror men, mostly to keep the minions up and fighting longer, as well as having Ballak being a full strength vampire spawn instead of a CR 4 variant buffed up with Legendary Actions.

I also had various different ideas originally about what to have in the vortex chamber, focusing on various floaty monsters like grell that would be immune to the vortex effect, but most of the things I thought of would have been too much for what the room was supposed to be. It was supposed to be an exciting "hazardous challenge" sequence, where the danger of the room was the real scare rather than the monsters in it, and as such the water weird hit just the sweet spot.

As far as how the final battle played out, it was purely the luck of the dice, but I was pleased that Gimlet got to land the killing blow on Ballak, since the vampire was intended to be an almost literal "twisted reflection" of the dwarven-mercenary-turned-cleric (hence the mirror motifs, which also tied in nicely with his vampire nature). Each character in the party has at least one NPC campaign villain set up to be a nemesis/dark reflection sort of character, of varying levels of redeemability and/or correspondence. Ballak was the most obvious "negaverse" version of one of the PCs, but also, due to his nature, doomed to be the one with the shortest in-game lifespan. Now what will Gimlet do for an arch-enemy? Guess he'll just have to piss someone else off. ;)

-The Gneech

PS: That mirror is still down there. Just sayin'.
the_gneech: (Legolas silhouette)
First of all, [livejournal.com profile] sirfox might find this particularly interesting: Weirder Fantasy.

Second of all, I've been doing a lot of thinking about the Sandbox vs. Railroad and Unlearning 3E Habits issues highlighted by my recent sessions. This led me to further rumination on the idea of What Is the Game About? 3.x (and especially 4E) put an unwarranted focus on "Fight, fight, fight!" Which isn't to say that the killing of monsters and taking of their stuff wasn't always a big part of the game, but as I rather incompletely observed when lamenting the loss of true rogues, in more recent editions combat has been "what the game was about," with exploration of the fantastic, scheming, and skullduggery being stuff that just interrupted the flow. Even if that wasn't the intention of the game designers, it was certainly the vibe created by the game mechanics and support material.

I'm still working out what I want to do about this for my game. In terms of game prep, the obvious thing is to put more emphasis on NPC plans and motivation and coming up with neat and weird things for the players to do/see/discover, and stop wasting my time on tricking out combat encounters. Mechanically, I'm also leaning towards halving the XP awards for combat, and adding a boatload of other XP awards to compensate, ranging from XP awards for treasure looted (or possibly awarding XP for "training," which would give the players something to spend loot on), to extra bonuses for completing "side treks," finding Ye Olde Secret Treasure Stashe [1], and so forth. I'll work something out and present it to the group before we put it in action.

Third of all, and related to the point above, as part of the "level up" of the Sword Coast game I have decided to rework the Silver Coast map in order to line it up with the mapping guidelines in the Dungeon Masters Guide (which had not been released when I initially put it together). To tie it further in with my Grand Unified Theory of Gneech's Gaming Worlds (as well as make it a bit less of Faerûn's Sword Coast with the serial numbers scratched off) I will also be doing a bit of retconning of the history and geography of the region. It won't impact anything the player characters have done or directly experienced, except for a few name changes (the nation to the south of Argent will get a new name, and probably Coneyburr too). Mostly Argent as a nation will be built out a little more to be more consistent with the levels of wealth and sophistication established by the campaign, and probably the eruption of Thunderdelve will be more recent history. Fifty years is a long time for a nation to be just starting to recover from the effects of a volcanic catastrophe, even one as large as that. I will also be making a formalized timeline that will incorporate some of the key events from Red Hand of Doom, since elements of that campaign are leaking over into this one.

I'm also going to clean up a few continuity oopses (such as just how Nezannar got to be in Wave Echo Cave) while I'm at it. Again, nothing that will have a major impact, just a bit of narrative housecleaning, more for my own reference than anything else.

-The Gneech

[1] It's a handlebar made of diamonds!
the_gneech: (Conan Civilization Sucks)
In the midst of self-examination, trying to answer the great question of what it is I actually give a flip about (and trying to turn that into a meaningful career/pursuit/vocation), I have worked out that I pretty much want three things:

  1. To make my comics.

  2. To play D&D (and variants).

  3. To live comfortably, securely, and for a long time, in order to achieve items 1 and 2.


So all week, when not working on art projects or mucking around with job search stuff, I've been jonesing for gaming, but there was none to be had. So in desperation, I pulled out the recent re-release of Icewind Dale and started grinding through it.

Now, unlike apparently every other RPG nerd in the world, I really disliked Baldur's Gate. But back in the day, I did enjoy Icewind Dale, so I thought, "A-ha, a high-res remix, that'll scratch my gaming itch!" Result? Eh, not so much.

IWD has not aged well. My patience for having the random number generator randomly one-punch half the party before they even get to act and having to reload is a lot thinner than it was when I was 30. Being released on the cusp between 2E and 3E rulesets, IWD still has a lot of the stupid "because f*ck players, that's why" junk rules of older editions, such as scrolls randomly failing to write to the spellbook and getting burned up anyway (which was bad enough in a tabletop game, but is frankly pointless in a CRPG where players will quickly learn to just save before writing to their spellbook and try again).

I did figure out how to min-max a party such that they only died one time in three instead of three times out of four, reducing the amount of time I spent loading saved games, but... ugh. If there's only one right way to build a party and go through the game, what's the point of even having custom built parties?

Upon realization that I just plain wasn't having fun any more, I punted on IWD and decided to spend my not-gaming time on doing game prep for my Silver Coast game instead. I need a break from being the DM, but as the game is heading for a new hub for at least a few sessions, I decided to go ahead and build it out a bit. It's kind of a detour from the main story, so I don't want to put a whole lot of time and effort into it, but I do want there to be enough there that if the players decide to poke around there will be things for them to find beyond the random encounter table.

So, it's still not really gaming, but it has at least been more productively not gaming.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Mysterious Beard)
In my post about difficulty the other day, I tossed in a random joke-not-really-a-joke sobbing about the fact that the characters are primed to hit 5th level at the end of the next session, and that it was too soon. It occurred to me after the fact that once upon a time (i.e., back in my 1e/2e days) hitting fifth level would not be cause for alarm. Certainly it's something of a watershed level, with fireballs and such showing up, but it's often seen as about the time heroes really come into their own, the training wheels come off, and the nitty-gritty of a game truly begins.

So... why too soon? I mean, I explicitly started my Eberron game at 3rd level (albeit in Pathfinder) to sorta "skip ahead" a bit. And it's not like the group hasn't earned it: they've conned a bugbear king, toppled a thieves' guild (a small one, but it still counts), clashed with the sinister machinations of a drow mage, and more.

Well, some of it is, I think, that we're in a new edition and I at least am feeling my way around to learn the ins and outs of it, but just about the time I start to feel like I'm getting the hang of things, the group levels up again and I get flummoxed. But I think that's just the surface issue, and there's something deeper underneath, to wit, I've been trained by 3.x to pay super-strict attention to the party levels... and that's something I need to unlearn.

In the faster-looser environment of earlier editions, where each class leveled up at its own rate and a party full of lackeys and hench... uh... persons? was expected, encounters weren't these carefully-structured pieces of art. Encounters were often super-random ("1d10 orcs... so a 100 XP to 2500 XP encounter, and you don't know which? Madness!") and just included whatever the DM thought sounded cool. Of course, that made for parties occasionally getting eaten by something the DM didn't realize would be quite so threatening, but that was part of the game. Hop over to a super-freeform system like Tunnels & Trolls and all bets were off... bathe your sword in a magic fountain you happen upon in a solo module and you might end up with the T&T equivalent of a +4 sword that does a base 2d10 damage or something crazy like that.

But 3.x has tight math in place, designed to help the DM predict how an encounter will go, and prevent the dreaded "accidental TPK". Part of this includes a heavy-handed progression along the level track: in 3.x a party of 5th level characters isn't just a bit more powerful than a party of 4th level characters, it's way more so. An encounter carefully tweaked to be "just right" for the 4th level party, feels like an easy win for the 5th level party; an encounter that was easy for the 4th level party, is a major snoozefest for the 5th. So yeah, you pretty much have to handcraft things to keep them interesting. And every time that level gauge goes "Ding!" you have to refactor everything.

Thus, it makes sense that someone used to thinking this way would cringe when the levels come flying at us like a freight train. But then I need to take a deep breath and remember, "Oh yeah, bounded accuracy." Going from 4th to 5th in 5E is still a significant bump because that's where your proficiency bonus goes up a notch, 3rd level spells and extra attacks appear... but it's not so significant that I have to throw away all of my prep leading up to it. Orcs are still dangerous, they just come in groups of 2 per PC instead of 1 for every 2 PCs like they did at, say, 3rd level. But at 5th I don't have to shy away as much from putting some more interesting things on the encounter list. Tromping around in the woods between Welltide and Pelann, there's been a "1d3 trolls" random encounter that I've been cringing at the possibility might come up, for instance. Now, I'm not so worried about it.

What I can do, however, is to go back and weed out some of the "junk" encounters that would just waste everyone's time, or possibly just narrate through them. "You encounter three ash zombies roaming around the woods. Gimlet, do you want to just channel divinity and blast 'em?"

I do worry, at the current growth rate, that the characters will suddenly be 8th, 10th, 12th level faster than a speeding bullet, and then things might start coming off the rails. Poking around the woods outside Welltide or wandering down into Wave Echo Cave is going to seem very dull by that point, unless those areas have been "civilized" and the characters have moved on to deeper delves and darker dangers. But realistically from a worldbuilding standpoint, that's going to take time. Welltide's defenses are under construction, but that doesn't happen overnight even in a magical setting, and the Diamondheart camp in Wave Echo Cave will need some shoring up before the PCs can leave it alone with confidence.

Basically I need to figure out some way to pad time in between adventures so the world can "catch up" to the PCs' advancement, or slow that advancement down. Maybe story-wise it would make sense to require some "training time" before the characters can actually make the jump to 5th level? Training between tiers does seem like a fairly natural hybrid of the original "train every level" rules vs. the modern "ding mid-adventure" mode.

I'll have to discuss this with the players.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Rastan Kill Monsters)
The current scenario in my Silver Coast game, as initially written and run for the first two sessions, was a study in the limits of 5E encounter design. And it taught me some very interesting things– not the least of which is that 5E can be just as painfully grindy as 3.x and 4E, when the difficulty is skewed way up and the tactical setup is the focus of the adventure design.

Pursuant to the issues I discussed in an earlier post, I wanted to see how tough a "hard" or a "deadly" encounter was, and so I tossed the group into a very linear adventure with a clear "This is the hook!" focus and their choice of which type of dangerous path they wanted to take to get there.

Long story short, [livejournal.com profile] sirfox's warrior cleric Gimlet was formerly a member of a mercenary company tasked with keeping the peace in the largest nearby campaign city, and his pre-game background was that he left that group in disgust at corruption within it. I built on this background by saying that his former captain had been hanged for treason on the strength of Gimlet's testimony. But what Gimlet had not known at the time is that while dangling from the gallows, his former captain had been offered the opportunity to sell his soul to Orcus in exchange for revenge etc., etc., and had taken it. Thus, Gimlet's former boss returned as a vampire who is granted "seven years of continued existence" for each soul he sends to Orcus. Naturally wanting to front-load this a bit, said boss decides to start by murdering just about everyone he knew and turning them into undead minions. The party, happening to pass through the city on their way to another mission, happens into this situation when the boss spots Gimlet on the streets and sends his minions to attack.

The first act of the scenario, which I'd envisioned being something like a Call of Cthulhu-esque investigation tracking down the various people involved in the boss's trial, didn't really go as I'd hoped. I gave Sirfie a list of the various people involved in the trial, as Gimlet would have known who they were, but it was probably too big of an infodump [1] and the party just sorta vagued around the city a while until they finally latched on to one and waited for him to get attacked. Once the attack actually happened, tho, they did a good piece of detective work to track the boss's minions back to his lair.

The second and third acts are the assault on the vampire's lair, i.e., the former captain's house in the city and the catacombs underneath it. This is where the tactical focus/difficult combat aspect came into play. The ground level of the house had three different "encounter" areas of varying difficulty, but given their proximity, the nature of the encounters, and the villain's underlying ability to pretty much see everything going on at once and command his minions accordingly, it became one big furball, with the monsters coming in waves one or two turns apart. The six ghouls, probably would not have been a problem. Six ghouls plus two hellhounds, a bit more of a problem but a self-correcting one as the hellhounds' fire breath hits the ghouls as much as the party. Six ghouls, two hellhounds, and two helm horrors? Yeah, that's a bit much for five 4th-level characters.

Not quite a fifteen minute workday, but enough that the party wanted a long rest, and I couldn't blame them. Then down into the catacombs... where they fought six more ghouls and a ghast scrunched up in a tight corridor... then another six more ghouls and a ghast who were all praying around a statue of Orcus that enabled them to regenerate at the beginning of their turn.

Oh, ye gods. So. Grindy. -.- That was a seriously bad encounter design, Gneech. And of course, they wanted another long rest at the end of it, and it would have been foolish of them not to take it. Definitely a 15-minute workday that time.

So, yeah, lesson learned. I didn't care for it. I much prefer the freewheeling sandbox to the grindy, grindy railroad, and so I have refactored the rest of the scenario to be closer to 5E standard guidelines (although the vampire at the end will probably still be pretty tough 'cos, y'know, vampire boss fight). Once we are through with it, I'll be going back to the "smaller, lighter adventure hooks but more of them" mode we were in leading up to it.

On a related note, at AnthroCon [livejournal.com profile] sirfox let me know in rambliness inversely proportional to the amount of rum and cola involved ;) that he is all about the phat l00tz. If I understood him correctly, anyhow, he'd like to get some cool "signature gear" that does things beyond the numerical +x bonus, which I must admit is how I prefer magic items myself. Ironically, there have been some items like that floating around (such as the ones guarded by the spectator in the Lesser Spellforge), but the party has tended to turn around just as they got close to 'em.

Last session Gimlet yoinked a pair of magic hammers and shields from the defeated helm horrors, but unfortunately they were (by design) of the generic +x variety, merely being components of the helm horror manufacturing process. On the other hand, the party is in the big city, maybe they can find a purveyor of fine weaponry who would be willing to trade for something more interesting, once they've climbed back up out of the catacombs.

Sirfie also told me a while back that I had been described to him as a GM who was stingy with magic items, which I have to admit came as a surprise. My general goal has been to operate more-or-less within the parameters set by whatever game system I'm using, tending to randomly generate and then tweak-to-personalize loot when the players come upon it. However, having cut my teeth on 1E, I do also believe that treasure, particularly magic items, must be earned (or at the very least searched for). That means that choice items are often down side-passages, hidden in secret chambers, or being used by the baddies against the players first. For players used to CRPG- or MMO-style treasure "drops," this might seem stingy I suppose, but in those settings any given piece of treasure rarely matters anyhow compared to the item it's replacing. A +0.15 sword doesn't actually change anything regardless of how prettily it shines!

But the biggest factor has probably been that we tend to play low-level games, and low-level games tend to have low-level gear. I think the longest contiguous game I've run was Red Hand of Doom, which went from 3rd level to 9th level if I remember correctly, with a short-lived 10th - 12th sequel game. Certainly the players had some pretty nifty gear by the end of that (red dragonscale armor is a particular standout I recall). The characters in the Silver Coast game will almost certainly hit 5th level by the end of the next session (*sobs* TOO SOON!), so magic items will probably start showing up more often as their adventures scale up to match.

-The Gneech

[1] NOTE TO MYSELF: Two clues is too few, and four clues is too many.
the_gneech: (Rastan Kill Monsters)
Our gaming group meets from 0-3 times per month, probably averaging around 1.5 times. There are two regular GMs, of which I am the GM about 65-70% of the time. The net result is that I get to be a player about five to seven sessions total in any given year.

That is really depressing. :P Unfortunately, I don't have a good solution for it. Finding another group to supplement the current one would be good, except it takes an act of congress to get together with the one I've already got.

Thus, as much as I love Obsidian and wish she could get more attention, I always have more characters I want to play than I will ever actually get to play. I'd love to do a modern version of Arshan, not to mention seriously jonesing for a chance to play Elsa, the support NPC in my Silver Coast game, as a player character. Also, inspired by my recent watching of Gurren Lagann, I have a new character for the stable...

Kamadan, the Forger of Destiny


Medium humanoid (human), 1st level paladin
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Armor Class 16 (chainmail)
Hit Points 12 (1d10 + 2)
Speed 30ft
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Str 16(+3), Dex 10(+0), Con 14(+2), Int 8(-1), Wis 13(+1), Cha 16(+3)
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Saving Throws Wisdom +3, Charisma +5
Senses Divine Sense, passive Perception 11
Skill Proficiencies Animal Handling +3, Athletics +5, Insight +3, Survival +3
Tool Proficiencies blacksmith's tools, vehicles (land)
Languages common, (one other based on campaign)
Challenge 1/2 (100 XP)
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Armor Penalties Disadvantage on Stealth checks.
Divine Sense Take an action to know the location of any celestial, fiend, or undead within 60 feet not behind total cover. Use up to 4 times between long rests.
Lay On Hands Restore up to 5 hit points by touch or remove one disease or poison between long rests.
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ACTIONS
Longsword (two-handed). Melee Weapon Attack: +5, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 9 (1d10 + 3) slashing damage.
Handaxe. Melee Weapon Attack: +5, reach 5 ft. or range 20/60 ft (thrown), one target. Hit: 7 (1d6 + 3) slashing damage.
Two Handaxes: When wielding two handaxes, Kamadan may make a second attack or throw the second axe as a bonus action.
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Equipment longsword, three handaxes, chainmail, shield (which he almost never uses), emblem of courage (holy symbol), explorer's pack
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Alignment Lawful Good
Background Folk Hero
Feature Rustic Hospitality
Personality Trait I constantly make pronouncements of my credo, which are occasionally vague or contradictory but always sound impressive.
Ideal Courage. A coward dies a thousand times– a brave man, only once!
Bond My spirit is a raging fire, pushed on to a great destiny that I have yet to discover!
Flaw I will face any danger on my feet and call out my foes by name, no matter how hopeless the odds! What's the use in running?
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Origin
Kamadan was merely the blacksmith's apprentice in a tiny nameless village far from civilization when the raiders came. Many villagers tried to flee, only to be cut down where they ran; others were grabbed up and thrown into cages to be sold as slaves. Kamadan cowered in the corner of his master's shop as the raiders' chief ransacked it, taking all of their best weapons and armor, and murdering the blacksmith when he tried to resist. Then, Kamadan saw it: the bandit chief wore an amulet depicting the head of a leopard, entwined by snakes– an emblem of the very creature Kamadan had been named after– and something in him changed. Scooping up his smith's hammer, he launched himself at the bandit chief in a fury of retribution and smote him on the spot. Braced by this victory, Kamadan claimed the amulet for himself, then took up a sword and shield from the smithy and went on the offensive, slaying bandits and releasing prisoners, who then rallied behind him. Before the bandits knew what had happened, their raid had backfired, and they fled in terror before the fearsome youth and his followers.

Kamadan stayed in the village long enough to tend to the wounded and help them bolster defenses, then set out with several volunteers to wipe out the raiders who had escaped to keep them from returning. Not being trained soldiers, their losses were heavy, but at the end of the day victory was theirs– and Kamadan knew he had been chosen by the spirits of heaven for greater things.

Personality
Kamadan is, as he describes himself, "a raging fire," full of excitement and enthusiasm. He sees life as a great "cosmic forge" in which people's destinies are shaped, hammered, and tested again and again, and he relishes the struggle. The bigger the challenge, the more eager he is to take it on. The tougher the foe, the more sure he is that he will conquer it. It's sometimes hard to tell if he's simply wildly exuberant, or if he's slightly unhinged, but whatever life around him is, it's never boring. He knows roughly that kamadans (the creatures) are great jungle cats with serpents that come from their shoulders, and equates them with strength and courage.

A Quote
"What do you think you're doing, sleeping in crypts and draining the blood of the living? The celestial spirits might tolerate such a thing, but not me!"

Appearance
Kamadan is tall and leanly-muscled, with a mop of dark hair, angular features, and almost always a lopsided, cocky grin. He wears the kamadan amulet he took from the bandit chief long ago proudly around his neck, showing it off to friends and enemies alike. "When you see this symbol, think of me! Kamadan! The great man of destiny that sent you scurrying back to your holes!"


You'd be fun, dude. :) Into the vault you go.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Ghostbusters)
I'm kludging up a 5E system bash to migrate my Ghostbusters game over to, since we keep forgetting the rules in Savage Worlds and 5E is rules-light enough that it will work well. But that led me to mentally map the Ghostbusters to their D&D archetypal equivalents. Whattya think of...

  • Peter Venkman: Half-elf Bard. Cutting remarks one minute, rousing speeches that inspire the team the next, jack of all trades but master of none. Not exactly the brains of the outfit, but the one they all look to when action is needed. Doubles as a rogue when required.

  • Ray Stantz: Halfling Cleric. The affable team player who's always got your back and is ready with a comforting word. Has lots of ranks in Religion and can figure out what's going on, if not what to do about it. Ironically, Wisdom is his dump stat but luck and lovability pull him through.

  • Egon Spengler: Elf Wizard. Pretty obvious.

  • Winston Zeddemore: Human Fighter. The dependable working joe who'll get the job done, but isn't the one being brilliant or showy.


I think it's a pretty good correlation, actually. :)

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Mysterious Beard)
I've posted before about the weird pitfalls of being at home theoretically working on the things I want to work on. Recently one gelled for me a few nights ago when I asked [livejournal.com profile] lythandra, "I left my day job with the plan of doing all these things I didn't have the time to do before... so why am I still spending so much time not doing them?"

It's kind of a tricky thing to quantify, because it's not like I'm doing none of the stuff I intended to do. Rough Housing is coming out on a regular (if painfully slow) schedule, and I've made progress on other projects as well, but I expected to start writing/drawing daily around 8:30-9:00 and knock off around 4:30-5:00. I was all excited about having the occasional night or weekend to watch TV, play computer games, or whatever else I wanted to do to relax, guilt-free, instead of them being things I only did when I was too exhausted to do anything else.

It hasn't quite worked out that way, which probably shouldn't surprise me at all, but still does. Days when I do workouts, that obliterates the whole morning, meaning I don't get to work until after lunch. Days when I don't do workouts are more likely to get in a full day as long as I don't let myself get sucked into the abyss of Tumblr/Pinterest/Twitter, which was a real problem at first. For a while I used a browser plugin called "StayFocusd" to completely block those sites during my "you should be working" hours, although it was a bit of a sledgehammer solution.

I knew, when I left the day job, that it would have an impact on my online time. The sad truth of the matter was that I could spend so much time doing Twitter RP and reading all sorts of online articles because most of my day job at the time was spent doing things that pretty much required little or no brain power. I was keenly aware that actually wanting to work was going to put a big dent in the time I spent pfutzing around... but I wasn't prepared for the reality of it.

Taking a hard look at how I was actually spending my time, part of the whole 2015 Is the Year of Going Big thing, forced me to really decide what I wanted from my online interactions. I culled a lot of my feeds, unfollowed a lot of people and things that weren't really making my life better, and I have started finding new homes for some of my online RP characters. I'm keeping a few (Soarin will always be my guy!), but most of them are either going to new players or simply going quiet. (Although to be honest, many of them have been quiet for some time already, I'm just now making it official instead of de facto, and pulling their info out of my Twitter clients so I'll stop seeing them there and feeling guilty about it.)

As for why I have spent so much of my time still doing things I didn't really want to do, I don't have a clear answer. I'm sure a lot was habit– it takes a while for your mind to catch up when your life changes around you. Self-awareness has never been one of my strong points (which is peculiar, given how much introspection I always think of myself as doing), and it's one of those things I'll probably take up with my counselor in due time. But in the meantime, I'm gonna keep tweaking things to fix it.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Obsidian)
[livejournal.com profile] jamesbarrett continued his campaign tonight, our second session post-5E transition. This one was fairly short, consisting mostly of poking around places we didn't belong and discovering several traps and the corpses of the adventuring party that came in ahead of us as we searched for the missing smuggler "Shanks" and his crew in the recently-unearthed catacombs under the mercenary guildhouse.

The only real threat we encountered was a flameskull, a kind of animated floaty magic burning skull that typically acts as a guardian in ancient crypts, magical laboratories, and the like. It hit us with a fireball, which hurt, but we quickly defeated it... only to discover that the thing was reforming as we examined the room. Not knowing the methods of permanently dispatching it (Obsidian could have done the job with dispel magic had she known), the party fled past it instead, finding the missing smuggler trapped in the room beyond, unable to get out through the constantly-reforming undead thingie.

We could have probably gone out there and fought the thing again, but we were getting low on spells ([livejournal.com profile] lythandra's cleric having to use much of her healing ability on our intended rescue targets), so Obsidian decided it was time for a little finesse. She cast major image to create an illusion of [livejournal.com profile] hantamouse's fighter/rogue and had it run out into the room and act as a giant target, backed up by a spiritual weapon actually engaging the flameskull. While the undead guardian turned and flung all its spells at the illusion, the party snuck out of the room behind it.

Obsidian would like to note, for the record, that drow do NOT go "Tee hee." But as her player, I suspect she may be lying about that.

We did find some other things relevant to the larger campaign metaplot as well, and we are now organizing a return trip down into the place to follow up on that when we don't have to shepherd any injured NPCs. This, however, will have to be done by stealth, as the mercenary guild is stubbornly refraining from actually "hiring us" do go back down there, as Obsidian would have preferred.

My own campaign will probably continue next week, and by coincidence, the party in that game are going to be poking around a recently-unearthed ruin that may or may not have traps and flameskulls in it. Just sayin'. I think that I'm going to stick with the house rule of having players roll Perception to spot traps, rather than going with Passive Perception, because since I set the DC to spot the trap, using P.P. basically means that I just decide up front whether they spot the trap or not. (See Item 17 of My Gamemastering Credo.) This was particularly noticeable in tonight's complex full of traps, as we pretty much spotted all but one of them well in advance.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Legolas Aaah)
Last night's Silver Coast game entailed the final smashing of the Redcloaks. The session began... )

Alas, that was probably the last session we'll be able to do for a while: December is awash in holidays and conventions. I feel bad for Gimlet, who keeps getting voted down and who, upon hearing that there was a random encounter in the forest, enquired "What kills me from behind this time?" I was somewhat surprised he didn't turn the skeletons, although in 5E that has returned to the less-useful "make them scatter" than the holy-blasteyness of Pathfinder, at least until 5th level. Given how effectively I've seen [livejournal.com profile] sirfox play clerics in the past, I'm a bit baffled by Gimlet's relative lack of oomph. With characters spending hit dice to heal themselves during short rests, Gimlet's role of healer has been all but removed. Instead he's spent most of his time casting bless (which has been handy but not a game changer), guiding bolt (which is nice but not spectacular), and bonking things with his hammer. His main feature seems to be his unhittability, as the monsters swarm him and just bounce off his armor, putting him in the role of tank more than anything else. (Well, except for owlbears, anyway.) Pretty much anything that hits Gimlet, crits Gimlet, because it almost had to roll a 20 to connect anyway.

Tylow the rogue, on the other hand, is a sexy shoeless god of war, using Cunning Action to practically teleport across the room and sneak attacking ALL the things. Elsa the barbarian has been a virtual damage sponge, thanks to her raging damage resistance: the quaggoths for instance hit Elsa for 18 damage and she only took 9, making her also a very effective tank. Mei, although optimized for archery, has also become quite fond of wading in with her new shiny magic greatsword, making her a versatile, reliable damage dealer, leaving Morgo as the wildcard. He's an evoker, specializing in area effect blastery, but he's also the reluctant face of the party, having high scores in Int, Wis, and Cha and a tendency to be grandiose.

Overall it's a fun group, with possibly a few more wrinkles to iron out, but shaping up nicely. I was just relieved that they didn't level-up again at the end of the session: I was prepared to rule that they got "whatever XP they earned, or 1 point fewer than necessary to hit 4th level, whichever is lower," simply to slow things down. Fortunately, the XP they earned still puts them at least one and possibly two more sessions away from that. Also, the Dungeon Masters Guide finally hits the stores on Friday, and I will be snatching it up to check out alternative XP systems. I want to get away from "combat as the XP engine," and I hope there will be some good advice there. If not, I'll just have to bake my own, I guess!

Players, any thoughts on the XP progression issue?

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Fred/George)
During Saturday night's game, I had a dickens of a time trying to explain to [livejournal.com profile] hantamouse what exactly he was rolling when attempting to use his thieves' tools. He kept looking for Disable Device or Open Locks/Disable Traps etc., and the wording of the Expertise blurb on his character sheet wasn't helping. He knew that he got "+7" to his rolls with the thieves' tools, but not why [1], which is kind of an important detail when it comes to figuring out how it changes later.

And I gotta say, I feel his pain. When I was first going through the rules, I couldn't figure it out either. Basically, "tool proficiency" is a skill by another name, why not just put it in the skill list? I still haven't found a good answer. One blog I found suggested that they wanted a mechanic that would require the presence of the thieves' tools to pick locks, without adding the mechanical complexity of a +2 circumstance bonus for "having the required tools."

Seriously? XD Why go through all that confusion? Why not just include good ol' Disable Device (or even the anemic 4E "Burglary" skill), and say that using it without tools gives you Disadvantage? Done and done, without adding a whole new and confusing mechanic.

Thoughts, anyone?

-The Gneech :cool:

[1] Proficiency bonus +2, doubled for expertise to +4, +3 Dex bonus.
the_gneech: (Legolas silhouette)
Last night was the fourth session of my Silver Coast campaign. Per unanimous player vote, it has graduated from being "a playtest campaign" and is now just "the campaign," and I'm pleased with that. :) Between the skeleton provided by the Starter Set, the hexcrawl portions that I've added, and the additional seeds of potential future adventures that I've planted across the map, we have enough to last quite some time.

Last night's session was the first one where the PCs spent a significant amount of time actually in their newly-adopted hometown of Welltide ("Phandalin" in the Starter Set), getting to know some of the locals. The session was mostly a series of small roleplaying vignettes, including meeting Sister Garaele (steward of the local temple), Daran Edermath (former adventurer like you until he took an arrow to the knee, now apple orchard owner and best prospect for a mayor who could actually get anything done), and Tylow's Aunt Qelline, an adorable little old halfling lady who fed everyone until they were ready to pop and wouldn't let them go off adventuring until they all were wrapped up nice and warm in a scarf. (Elsa started referring to her as "Aunt Grandma" after this.)

After lunch (and Tylow slipping some gold surreptitiously into the kitchen drawer to support his auntie) the group split up to go off and do their own thing. Tylow and Mei asked around to see what the Redcloaks were up to; Gimlet, being a cleric, wandered around town looking for folk to minister to; and Morgo went back to the inn to write some letters to send his friends and family back in Argent.

Gimlet and Elsa found someone who badly needed ministering to: it was a local townie being roughed up by Redcloaks (well, presumably Redcloaks, they weren't actually wearing the former-constabulary uniform). When the pair stepped in to intervene, the Redcloaks decided to "teach them a lesson."

School was in session all right, but not the way the Redcloaks intended. Gimlet and Elsa quickly made short work of slaying two and capturing the other two, hauling them off to the Townsman's House to turn in to Lord Sildar, who had set up offices there as an official representative of the crown. ("Not the king, just the crown," as Mei put it in a snarky moment.)

Sildar was quite pleased. Between the farmhands the PCs had convinced Daran Edermath to send as support, and the two mercenaries Sildar had been able to hire on his own, his new constabulary force was growing rapidly, and having prisoners to interrogate about Redcloak activity could prove very useful. He sent for Sister Garaele, telling the PCs to go grab some dinner and come back to help with the interrogation.

Unfortunately, dinner was interrupted by the sound of a commotion outside the Inn, which the PCs (being PCs) ran out to investigate. Several Redcloaks, their faces covered by masks, were assaulting the Townsman's House, aided by a bugbear(!) and the mysterious and reclusive Glass-Staff himself, his own face covered by a mask. (Tylow: "So he does come out of his hole!") Glass-Staff used a spell scroll to blast the house with a fireball, setting it ablaze, while the Redcloaks fired flaming arrows at the roof and attacked anyone fleeing the building.

Obviously, this could not stand. The PCs engaged the criminals, aided by Brannar Diamondheart (who'd been eating dinner with them) and of course Lord Sildar, who was in the upper floor of the house shooting his crossbow at the Redcloaks below. The battle was short and vicious: Morgo blasted Glass-Staff with magic missiles, causing the wizard crimelord to flee; Tylow got in some impressive sneak attacks (including taking out the bugbear with an attack of opportunity); Gimlet made sure one of the Redcloaks was taken alive and rallied the townsfolk into making an impromptu fire brigade to make sure the fire didn't spread; Elsa took up the role of "meat shield" to protect Morgo; and Mei ran into the burning building to rescue Lord Sildar as the roof came crashing in on him.

Sadly, three of Lord Sildar's four new constables died in the attack– and Morgo's letters home went up in flames in the Townsman's House mailbox. The PCs came to the conclusion that there was no point in going on any expeditions to Wave Echo Cave, or to Coneyburr for the side job Sister Garaele gave them, until the Redcloak problem was dealt with. They worked up a plan to head to the Sleeping Giant Inn to arrest any known Redcloaks there first to thin the criminal band's numbers before making an assault on their main hideout under Tresendar Manor, which is where the next session will begin. Everyone gained enough XP to reach 3rd level, so we finished off the session with leveling up.

I'm still pleased with the speed and ease of 5E. I ran the entire "Redcloak assault on the Townsman's House" encounter off the cuff based on what Glass-Staff would do, just by grabbing the stat blocks of everyone involved, rather than planning it out with an XP budget or anything of that nature, and it worked well. The PCs got to kick butt and take names, but there was still a sense of danger during the whole encounter– whether it was danger to the PCs or to important NPCs. (Lord Sildar took something like half his points from being crushed by burning rafters.) If the dice had been crueler, or the party had not worked together so well, it could have easily been a lot uglier.

The module suggests treating the town like an old western, with Lord Sildar taking on the role of "the new marshal" cleaning up the place, and that aspect was quite strong in this session. Glass-Staff's assault on the Townsman's House had the feel of the murders of Morgan and Virgil Earp... I wonder if we won't see Morgo and Glass-Staff drawing wands in the main drag at high noon.

(Spoiler: We won't. ;P )

No game next weekend: my 45th berfday party instead! We're gonna have a party here at The Hobbit Hole, probably the last one before the sale goes through. I sent out several invites that didn't get RSVPs, or even acknowledgement of receipt, so if you're a local or even not-so-local friend who would expect to get an invite to such a thing and you haven't, chances are I sent you one and it got lost in the aether. Send me an e-mail at thegneech@gmail.com about it!

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Conan Civilization Sucks)
A while back I made some observations about the "Old School Renaissance" (OSR)'s impact on D&D 5E, and I have been continuing to examine the topic. On the whole, I've come to the conclusion that I like the OSR, but it's full of nitwits.

A little context may be in order here: I got into D&D early. Like, real early. 1979 early. That was the year (if my memory serves correctly) I was given a secondhand D&D Basic Set (2nd Printing), edited by J. Holmes (sometimes known as "the blue box"), for Christmas. And like other famous blue boxes, it was much bigger on the inside than it was on the outside. I didn't actually ever get to play that, but I did read and absorb it for years.

I'm not being a hipster when I say you've probably never heard of the first game I actually ran– it's just a literal fact. It was an obscure "buy ten miniatures and paint, plus here's a dungeon game included" kit from Heritage USA called Dungeon Dwellers: Crypt of the Sorcerer. I then moved on to 1E AD&D and played that for many years, mostly skipping 2E all together.

So, y'know, I get what the old school is about. I was there, man. ;) And I also get (and mostly agree with) the principles that the current OSR is built on: player choice, setting immersion, emphasis on impartial GMs and clever, emergent play over mindless grindy combats and predestined storylines, etc. So naturally, I'm drawn to look at OSR gaming resources and discussion.

But wow, some of the dumb shit OSR bloggers say. XD Like any movement that's half (or more) defined by what they dislike rather than what they like, they get into purity wars about who's More OSR Than Thou, divide the world into badwrongfun "new school" and goodrightfun "old school," and go through all sorts of weird gyrations to negate any actual, valid criticism of older games (or newer games that cleave to OSR aesthetics).

When you've got Arnesians claiming "more cred" than Gygaxians, people arguing that a moody cover of a hapless adventurer being carried off by a tentacle is too "new school" because it was created in Photoshop by some person other than Erol Otus, or (here's a weird one that really exists) bloggers asserting that contemporary RPGs are all about "exploring your character's sexual preferences," it quickly becomes clear that what you've really got going on is a cult, just as myopic and talking-to-itself as any other.

So, honestly, I'm glad 5E was influenced by the OSR, because 4E really was awful in so many ways, but I'm also glad that the OSR is not the only influence on it. And while I'm sympathetic to what actual philosophical underpinnings the OSR has, I am not hitching my star to that wagon!

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Rastan Kill Monsters)
I recently read The Angry DM's Thy Game Mastering Commandments, in which he recommends establishing (and presenting for players to see) a "GM Credo," a set of principles you aim to adhere to when running games. Given that my game-mastering philosophy has been undergoing some evolution (or at least examination) lately, I think this would be a useful exercise.

Some caveats up front: my game-mastering philosophies have morphed and occasionally completely reversed over the years. Sometimes I was experimenting, sometimes I was operating in another set of circumstances that made sense at the time, and sometimes I was flat out wrong about something. This is a statement of my GMing principles as of today, and moving forward. As with any set of ideals, I might not always live up to it, but I am at least going to try.

Some of this stuff is pretty basic, too, but hey, I might as well be thorough.

  1. Specific trumps general.

  2. For instance, if we are playing a game where your party are members of an organization and given assignments, that supersedes the usual principles of providing multiple hooks.

  3. The rules provide a framework for interacting with the game world. The "book" (whatever book that may be) is the baseline, and any variations from that baseline (i.e., "house rules") will be made clear before a player is required to make a decision.


  4. I will use game systems that use the minimum possible complexity for the desired effect.

  5. A game system that cannot easily be played without computer assistance (or at most a pocket calculator), is an undesirable game system. I didn't realize just how sick I was of 3.x/PF until I started messing with 5E.

  6. As referee, my job is to understand the rules, and to interpret them when there is ambiguity. Rulings at the table will be treated as house rules going forward.

  7. House rules are always subject to evaluation and debate between sessions. During a session, if we can't come to an agreement within a few minutes, I'll pick a ruling and go on, subject to debate later.

  8. When I present a game to the group, it is a proposal, not a dictum.

  9. Until we've all agreed to a campaign premise and its attendant house rules, it's up for modification or veto. There's no point in trying to run a game we don't all want to play. If as time goes on, the campaign evolves, or the players would like to take it in another direction, that's fine, as long as we're all on the same page about it.

  10. I will do my best to run the game the players want to play.

  11. Of course, you have to let me know what that is. I am occasionally shocked to find out there's something that's been bugging someone for ages and I had no idea. The whole point of the item above is that we should all be expecting more or less the same thing out of a game. Also, keep in mind that as the GM, I'm one of the players too. I can't run a game I hate!

  12. It's okay to take the game seriously.

  13. It's also okay to not take the game seriously. The important thing is knowing when to do which. I will always try to create a coherent world that operates by a recognizable set of rules, but those rules will vary from world to world. The spooks in Ghostbusters are going to have a different level of "seriousness" from a cursed wraith in Dungeons & Dragons.

  14. I am running for the group, not for any individual player.

  15. If this means saying, "Okay, that character goes off on their own adventure, please create a new character who will work with the group," so be it. I will not start a session until the group has established a reason why the team exists and will work together. This can be as simple as "We are friends and want to go exploring" or "I own a ship and hired these guys to be my crew."

  16. I will present multiple hooks that are reasonably easy to find. Player characters can always say "no."

  17. I will not take away players' freedom of choice without their consent. Joining a campaign in which you are given a mission at the start of each adventure means that you have agreed to accept and attempt to perform said missions from the start– or at the very least, refusing a given mission would represent a major event within the campaign framework.

    Hooks are there to provide some kind of structure beyond "You are here, and here's a map, what do you do?" They are designed to help avoid "decision paralysis" and give you something to work with. They are not there to proclaim, "There's the plot, go get it!" and then punish you if you don't.

    The issue of multiple hooks is also a matter of player choice: if you are completely free to do anything you want (as long it's follow the only hook presented), you aren't really free, are you? The consequences of following/not following one hook over another might be more or less desirable to your character– that's just the way the world works. But I have failed in my role as an impartial referee if there is a "right" or "wrong" answer to the question of "What do you do?"

  18. Some players "build" a character; some "discover" the character through play. Therefore, I will not require back-stories, disadvantages, or similar character flags to begin the game.

  19. (Names are still necessary for all characters, however. You are not playing chess pawns.) Be aware that this may leave your character seriously "underpowered" if the game system selected for a campaign builds such things into character creation (e.g., Savage Worlds). If all else fails, you could always use the 5E method and roll dice to pick something!

  20. For those players who enjoy it, I will do my best to provide opportunities for your characters to pursue their own goals, tie their back-stories into the broader campaign, and so forth.

  21. Again, this assumes that you let me know what those are. This is my favorite part of roleplaying games, so obviously for me the more the better; but it's not everybody's thing, and I don't want it to be a requirement for participation the game.

  22. I don't know how any given scenario will end, and I have at best an educated guess about how the middle will go.

  23. I will create scenarios, not scenes. Scripted events ("if player kills cult leader while he's chanting, summoned monster will go berserk") may occur, but I will not force their appearance ("no matter how long it takes the players to get to the summoning chamber, the priest will be just about to finish his chant"). A scripted in medias res moment might be used to kickstart a campaign or a session, as appropriate for the campaign, but those will not be done in a way that takes away the players' freedom of choice, as described earlier.

  24. I will not create "guessing game" situations.

  25. This doesn't mean that I'll telegraph the result of relatively minor choices ("turn right or left at the end of the hall"); what this does mean is that you will always either have the information you need to make an important choice, or knowing that you lack information, you'll be able to get it (even if that's by asking me directly). (Of course, if asked directly, I may answer with, "Perhaps you should look for clues." That's part of gaming, after all!) If you ever feel like a life-or-death decision might as well be the flip of a coin, I've done something wrong.

  26. NPCs are speaking for themselves; they are not the GM wearing a mask.

  27. Like most humans, most NPCs are relatively honest, but there's always the chance they may be wrong, they may be lying, or they may simply be making noise. But I'm not going to use NPCs to send you messages. As the GM, it's my job to play "the rest of the world" based on what those people would do. If the barbarian hireling says "I'm bored, let's go kill something," it's because the barbarian hireling is bored, not because I want to goad you into a fight scene.

  28. I will not allow players to wander into deadly peril without warning.

  29. If players choose to put themselves in deadly peril, I will not shield them from it, either. Note that going to an adventure site (however that may be defined for the game at hand) is by default "being in deadly peril" unless you have reason to believe otherwise. In a combat situation, the opposition will be playing to win.

  30. I will roll dice in the open.

  31. I used to be a big ol' fudger; I have since come to the conclusion that far from "making the game more fun," this actually hurts the game in the long run, because the players can never know if they overcame a challenge on their own merits, or because the referee was "home cooking." This in turn leads to the assumption that the PCs will win or lose due to GM predestination, which puts me right back in the role of having "written" the story before the players ever get to the table.

  32. If there is a choice between the players rolling dice, or NPCs/monsters rolling dice, the players will roll the dice.

  33. This may give the players metagame knowledge their characters could not reasonably have; I will trust the players not to abuse this.

    For example, in our most recent session, the owlbear that mauled Gimlet rolled a supremely high Stealth check against your characters' passive Perception scores. This is how the rules are designed, but the net result was "Bang! You're (almost) dead without warning and can't do anything about it!" for Josh. Even though this was using the rules as written, it removes the player's freedom, which is something I don't want to do.

    How I would handle that same situation now, were it to come up again, would be to say, "An owlbear has been stalking your party through the forest for an hour, and is closing in for the kill. Everyone make a Perception check against its Stealth to avoid surprise." Given how well the owlbear rolled, the net result of the fight may have very well been the same, but it would at least have made you active participants instead of simply receiving a bucket of damage out of the blue.

  34. I will not show you things you can't have, although it may require effort to acquire it.

  35. This is something I have only been peripherally aware of until recent discussions, but an artifact of the 3.x/PF system and its "magic economy" is that there are shops full of super-wifty magic items, that you'll never be able to afford. The idea is supposed to be that you'll be inspired to go out and find treasure to get these things (and to restrict access to them until such time as they wouldn't completely unbalance the game), but due to the "wealth-by-level guidelines," the likelihood of finding the piles of money you'd need in any given adventure is vanishingly low.

    I agree, that sucks. As a player, it has certainly frustrated me that I wanted Obsidian to be making use of her tricked-out Use Magic Device skill, only to be thwarted by the fact that there aren't any magic devices for her to use. And as a GM, I intend to find a way to keep this from happening in my games in the future. In more traditional D&D settings this is as simple as removing magic item shops, except for the basic consumables (e.g., healing potions), and making sure there is enough treasure to be had that such things are within your price range. In a setting like Eberron it will take more finagling, and I will address that when the time comes.

    This same principle holds true for other genres: if a player in a Star Wars game wants to get ahold of Boba Fett-style armor, I will find a way to make it available to them, and so forth. This may require metagame discussions to make sure the player's wishes don't interfere with the rest of the group's or throw the campaign into disarray, etc., but it is a ramification of the "I will run the game the players want to play" item from up above.

    The real currency of the game is not gold pieces or experience points, it's each player's "moment to shine" at the table. As long as a player's desires don't invalidate anyone else's, there's no reason not to try to make it happen.

  36. If it takes more than three sentences to describe your surroundings, I need to simplify.

  37. Honestly, this is a note to myself. I tend to go purple in my room descriptions when I'm at the computer, and then regret it at the table when I find myself reading walls o' text out loud.

  38. I will override the game system if I feel there's a compelling reason to do so.

  39. If you're in a fight with something that has a giant bag of hit points but that cannot possibly escape its doom, I'll just say, "Fine, four rounds later it's dead," rather than make you sit there rolling dice. If we've had a long, grueling session and we all just want to call it a night, I'm not going to mess with random encounters as you trudge back to town.

  40. I will allow group override.

  41. Similar to the point above, if everybody agrees that something sucks, I will allow it to be altered. If everybody agrees that something would be awesome, I will let it happen. Note that "everybody" includes me.


Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions?

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Default)

It’s going to be a few months before the DMG hits shelves, so until then the only real guidelines we have for experience points are the monster XP values provided in the Basic Rules.

However, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about how XP was awarded in earlier editions (and in other “old school” games), and the ramifications thereof. In 1e, you got as much XP from treasure looted as monster kills, if not more– and you had to spend said treasure on “training” once you gained enough XP to level up, or you would stop receiving XP. Thus, if you had killed a horde of orcs without collecting a single copper, you were stuck. Alternatively, if you looted a dragon’s hoard, but never engaged a single monster, you were also stuck (but at least you were stuck and rich).

2e loosened this up, and honestly, I don’t know if I ever played in a game that actually required you to train to level up. We mostly just carried it around in bags of holding and wondered what we were supposed to spend it on. In 3.x and beyond, XP was all about the combat encounters, with a little bit of handwavy stuff about “yeah maybe you can give quest XP too.” 4E did try to expand this a bit with the skill challenge mechanic and a little more emphasis on quests, but it was still pretty much “fight, fight, fight, plus variations.”

On the principle that the actions that get rewarded are the actions that get repeated, that was one of the things that has led RPGs to their recent state of being all about the big set-piece combat encounter, which can be fun (I’ve certainly run my share of them), but is both exhausting and, honestly, monotonous when it becomes the main focus of the game.

5E, at least if you believe the introduction to the PHB, is instead built on the “three pillars of adventure,” which add Exploration and Social Interaction as major foci for the game. Of course, I heartily endorse this– even my most hack-and-slashy barbarian characters want to have someone to talk to or see something amazing from time to time. So how can we incorporate these pillars into the XP mechanic?

Exploration

Tunnels and Trolls had a very simple formula for this: the first time a party explored a new level of the dungeon, they received 100 XP x the dungeon level. (Thus, 100 XP for first level, 200 XP for second level, etc.) To earn this, you had to actually poke around a bit– you couldn’t just wave your arm down the stairs and suddenly claim 200 XP. This required some judgement when out of the dungeon context, of course. Is the lizardfolk village a “2nd level dungeon,” for instance? But on the whole it was a pretty good model, and worth adopting.

So here’s my proposed rule: for each new “region” explored for the first time, the party will receive XP equal to a single creature encounter at the expected level of that region. A region can be a town hub, a dungeon level, or any point of interest on the map. The point is that it’s someplace new and interesting that the party has never seen before. As usual, this XP is divided among the PCs, with hirelings and the like receiving 1/2 shares.

Using the Lost Mines of Phandelver as an example, that might translate to something like:

  • Cragmaw Hideout (1st level/CR 1): 200 XP
  • Town of Phandalin (1st level/CR 1): 200 XP
  • Redbrand Hideout (2nd level/CR 2): 450 XP
  • Conyberry/Old Owl Well/Wyvern Tor (2nd level/CR 2): 450 XP
  • Thundertree/Cragmaw Castle (3rd level/CR 3): 700 XP
  • Wave Echo Cave (4th level/CR 4): 1,100 XP

This award assumes the characters spent a significant amount of time actually interacting with the denizens or features of a given location and is awarded when they leave it or take their first long rest within the region.

Social Interaction

This is much trickier. Some classes are all about social interaction (lookin’ at you, bards), while others are often better served by avoiding it (rogues), and it’s one of those things where many people feel that the play is its own reward– not to mention that the inspiration mechanic is already tied into it. (What are BIFTs, if not roleplaying hooks?) Furthermore, what constitutes a “social interaction encounter” is often much harder to identify. If the party attacks and captures a band of hobgoblins which they then interrogate, was that a combat encounter or a social interaction encounter? If you count it as both, is that double-dipping XP? (And if so, is that really a problem?)

I think the way I shall handle this is to award XP for social encounters based on the CR of the creature encountered, awarding 1/2 XP if there’s no real danger to the PCs. Again using Phandelver as an example, there are a couple of quests that may send the PCs to question a banshee. Normally banshees are CR 4, but the text specifically says she will not attack the PCs unless they attack her first. Thus, the encounter with the banshee is worth 1/2 the XP of a CR 4 encounter, or 550 XP. (This is skewed upwards a bit from the suggested XP in the module itself, which seems to treat it as a CR 1 encounter.)

If the PCs are in real danger– engaging in a riddle contest with a sphinx who will eat them if they guess wrong, for instance– then they are awarded full XP for the CR of the creature as if they had “defeated” it. (This is, among other things, to keep people from saying “Eh, the sphinx wasn’t worth any XP alive anyway, and riddles are stupid.”)

Not just any chatting up of NPCs counts as a “social encounter,” there has to be some kind of victory condition. In the case of the banshee, “victory” consists of getting her to answer your question. In the case of negotiating with the bugbear king for the release of a prisoner, you have to actually secure the prisoner’s release (and not get killed in the process), etc.

Quest XP, XP for Treasure and Other Oddities

I am still on the fence about these. I am reluctant to engage in “Quest XP” because that puts me back in the position of “pre-scripting the story” that I have been trying to get away from. There are already patrons in the setting who are willing to pay the PCs to accomplish certain things, and there are the XP and treasure awards in place for overcoming the challenges involved, so I’m inclined to let those take care of themselves. If I put a quest XP system in place, that rather feels like I’m giving the players an “assignment,” which is great for something like Ghostbusters but not what I want from D&D.

XP for treasure is a slightly different beast. Advocates of such a system say it promotes clever and interesting play, when sneaking in to steal the rat god’s gemstone eyes is worth more than slaughtering all the wererats and being done with it. It also makes it clear what players are expected to do: Find treasure! Which is down in mysterious dungeons (requiring exploration) and guarded by monsters (requiring combat).

Critics of such a system say it’s nonsensical at best (“I stole a diamond! Now I can swing my sword better.”) and creates perverse incentives at worst (“Why explore dungeons when I can gain a level every month by opening a Rat-On-A-Stick stand at the dungeon entrance?”). I can see what they’re getting at, but everything in D&D is so abstracted anyway that I’m not sure it’s a real problem. Modern OSR games such as Lamentations of the Flame Princess get around this by defining “treasure” as “loot removed from a dangerous place,” as opposed from money you earn via crafting or rewards given to you by NPC patrons.

Awarding XP for treasure implies that there’ll be treasure to find. Unfortunately, with the 3.x “magic item economy” officially gone the way of the dodo there’s precious little out there for adventurers to spend their ill-gotten gains on, other than their downtime lifestyle. Granted, this is not an insignificant expense: 2 gp/day for “comfortable” racks up quickly if your characters lounge around for weeks, and any crafting/research you may want to do cranks up the cost. But it also runs the danger of making the game feel like Papers & Paychecks, and I wonder how many groups will actually use it.

Treating an extravagant lifestyle as one method of 1e-style “training,” on the other hand, has a certain appeal… the wizard “trains” by pouring all their treasure into old tomes and reagents, the cleric tithes and supports good works, the fighter works on establishing a keep or going with the rogue to seek out ale and wenches, and the bard lives like a rockstar. It also simplifies accounting: instead of picking a lifestyle and paying the daily cost, you simply roll that into the cost of levelling up and calling it done.

A simple way to handle it might be to require the expenditure of the same amount of gold to level up as the XP required to go up a level: 300 gp to become second level, 900 gp to become third level, etc., but that seems rather high. (300 gp is a lot of money for a 1st level character!) But this could be tweaked. Maybe 1/3 as many gp as XP? Putting that much treasure out there for players to loot in order to level up suggests that they should not also get XP for treasure, however, or will inflate rapidly.

What do you think, gamerati? I’m very curious as to folks’ opinions on this.

-The Gneech

Originally published at gneech.com. You can comment here or there.

March 2017

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