Alignment, Charisma, and Player Role-Playing Behavior

Your character walks into a bar… how does everyone react?

One of the biggest challenges for DM’s is matching the reactions of NPC’s to the characters in an organic fashion that accurately reflects the character’s behavior, appearance, history, etc.

One cheat is to simply peg things to Charisma and related skills. The problem with this method is that it can quickly get bogged down in reductive dice-rolling and skill checks, not to mention that it often seems to result in dice-rolls that result in utterly inane behavior or responses to the character by NPC’s.

The other cheat is simply to use the player’s roleplaying as a guide. The problem with this of course is that not all players are good at role-playing, plus it paradoxically may ignore a very high or low Charisma or lack of character skill if the player is good enough.

Lastly, there is the age old problem of how Alignment interacts with player/character behavior as well as the above two factors. The classic I’m really a good hero but all I do is act like a murder-hobo is a long-standing issue in the various iterations of D&D.

My own solution is a blend of all three factors, as the title of this post indicates.

Charisma is the easiest to explain, it’s simply how likable or unlikable you are. Honestly. we’ve all know people who do the dumbest, most annoying things but everyone still tends to like them? Or that backstabbing frenemy who you can’t quite get over? This is a class high Charisma person that people just can’t help but make excuses for or other wise like on some ineffable personal level. Similarly, some people are just screwed with having low Charisma and get picked on, aren’t trusted, etc. no matter what they do or say.

Included in this is skills, so if a character is skilled in persuasion or deception or whatever and that is filling up a large period of their time, it is factored in. Basically the idea is to not forget the role that the proficiency bonus might play in people’s reaction to the character.

Alignment, and this works even better in 5e than in 1e, is all about the innate ethics (Law-Chaos axis) and morals (Good-Evil axis) of the character. While certainly providing a rough set of guideposts for the players regarding role-playing behavior (though Palladium did a way better job of that with it’s method), what I use it as is a template for how the character acts while on autopilot and during downtime. The time and events that are role-played are actually quite a small percentage of the character’s life, and alignment provides a good measure as to how they behave the rest of the time sans any specific instruction from the player.

Most people are some version of good, selfish folk are often Chaotic Neutral or Neutral, some honorable but morally aberrant folk are Lawful Evil. Very few people are actually Chaotic or Neutral Evil in human and demi-human society. Interestingly this is, apart from possible Radegastian clothing choices, what makes classically neutral Druids so uncomfortable for many people, they often aren’t operating on “normal” human ethical and moral compasses.

Similarly, as folks age, they tend to become more extreme in their beliefs, moving away from Neutrality. Conversely Mages tend to strip away their ethics and morals in the search for arcane power and are likely to become Neutral (much like Druids but with a supernatural rather than a natural focus).

Character behavior by way of player choice (aka role-playing) is the big wild-card. The previous two elements pretty much run in the background, but role-playing can swing things in any direction. Sufficiently intense or long-term roleplaying can change Alignment (aka, no you can’t continually murder innocent people any stay “good”). Player/Character action can produce huge swings in reaction, especially when it seems grossly out of touch with how people expect the character to behave (aka Alignment). High Charisma can help you get away with things that normally wouldn’t be excused, but do it enough or often enough and people will change those expectations and I, as the game master, will also say that you are also (likely unconsciously) changing you day-to-day behavior to meet whatever that new alignment is.

Now, you can still play good characters tortured by their evil deeds and trying to atone, or evil characters who out of enlightened self-interest perform normally good acts, but those are things to be role-played though player and character action. They are not things that “run in the background” and the player is going to have to make sure that this sort of inner conflict or discrepancy is part of how they role-play because these are things that are part of the inner landscape of the character.

Lastly, it is also worth noting that race, class, and background can also impact things. Some races just have unwholesome reputations just the same as others are considered more upright. Almost every class other than Fighter and every race other than Human (Common Man) comes with some baggage – some good, some bad, and it’s more likely bad than good. And that is speaking merely from a human perspective – talk to the elves and they have an entirely different take on things. Background sets a character into some semblance of social class, and depending upon your game this can have a huge impact on how people react and what assumptions they make – my game is one of those where it does.

Anyways, I hope this gives some folks a more helpful way to negotiate what happens when the character’s in their campaigns walk into a bar…

TTFN!

D.

 

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Clothing Maketh The Man

So, no posts for awhile. My apologies, I was caught up in moving into a solo office of my own and it was quite the busy June and July as a result…

Todays post comes from a set of rules that I’ve had for my fantasy game for awhile now, basically how to cost out clothing for the different social classes – along with a basic description of what comes in a basic outfit from the Heartlands. This came up in the last session because Baron Devin Tresendar managed to loose all of his clothing when they were ambushed by one of the dreaded Knights of the Dearth (aka Death Knight) and was wandering around dressed in peasant garb for awhile. They recently arrived at the capitol, and he finally had the time and place to go properly clothes shopping. This was especially important because there is some significant social combat coming up as they try to figure out if the King’s Champion is actually working with the Ebon Triad is being framed by them…

MS, Devin’s player, was quite shocked what it cost to buy a set of brand-new clothing – especially since it made sense to buy three outfits (two “everyday” and one “good suit”)

I simplified this in deciding that any particular piece of clothing costs the same number of coins, it’s merely the a different type and thus different value of coin. The basic idea is that each of the six social classes clothing costs directly correlates to the six basic coin types. So Beggar’s clothing costs Bronze, Commoner’s Copper, Merchant’s Silver, Gentlefolk Electrum, Noble’s Gold, and High Court garb cost’s Platinum.

But, for those that are interested, here is a description of what each social tends to wear both in terms of items, as well as in terms of materials, colors and decoration. It is also worth nothing a couple of potential price modifiers. Out of Fashion clothing (only applicable to Merchant, Gentlefolk, Noble, and High Court garb) is half-price but may impose Disadvantage in some social situations, and similarly Cheap or Poor Quality clothing has the same price modifier and the same potential detriment. New Fashion costs double the normal amount and may grant Advantage in some situations, and Exotic Fashion (either truly haute couture)  costs triple the normal cost and has a greater chance to grant Advantage (though it may also impose Disadvantage in some cases as well, some plebeians are unable to appreciate true genius after all… Clothing of Superior Quality costs five-times normal, but grants a +1 bonus to applicable rolls, and Masterwork clothing costs ten-times normal and grants a +2 to similar rolls.

Often times there are some various sumptuary laws in effect, but they are often there to be flouted to a degree.

Clothing is expensive enough that it is often handed down for as long as it can be worn, patched and mended as often as needed.

It is also worth noting that weapons and armor are also be subjected to the same price modifiers. For example, while a normal, serviceable broadsword costs 30 Silver, one suitable for Gentlefolk would cost 30 Electrum (with chasing of precious metals, engraving, etc), and one suitable for a Noble would cost 30 Gold. This doesn’t include the potential of gems or jewels being mounted in them either which would of course raise the value and the status of the bearer.

For those who wish to be truly extravagant, there are also a whole series of minor enchantments for clothing that can be purchased in the proper places to ensure proper fit, self-repair, always dry, etc.

 

BEGGAR’S GARB:

So Beggars tend to wear the threadbare and patchworked cast-offs of the higher social classes, most commonly that of Commoners and Merchants. Often undyed (beige and off-white), when they are colored it is in the more basic and drab hues (dun, browns, mustard, muddy blues and greens, etc), often quite faded and invariably stained. Mostly commonly of coarse wool, leathers, and cast-off linen and are often relatively ill-fitting. Beggar’s often only own the clothes on their back.

Men– Tunic (8), Pants (6), Bandanna (1), Belt (1) – 16 Bronze

  • Outerwear: Cap (3), Mittens (1) – 4 Bronze
  • Riding Wear: None
  • Sleepwear: None
  • Accessories: Beltpouch (2) – 2 Bronze

Women– Blouse (6), Long Skirt (6), Headscarf (1), Girdle (4)- 17 Bronze

  • Outerwear: Cap (3), Mittens (1) – 4 Bronze
  • Riding Wear: None
  • Sleepwear: None
  • Accessories: Beltpouch (2) – 2 Bronze

 

COMMONER’S GARB:

Commoners can generally afford their own clothes, but will also wear the cast-offs of the higher social classes, most commonly that of Merchants and occasionally Gentlefolk. Those commoners that are direct servants of Nobles will occasionally be gifted with an old piece of lesser clothing to wear. Often undyed (beige and off-white) or blue (from woad), when they are colored it is in the most basic hues (dun, browns, mustard, greens, dull red, etc).  Commonly of wool, leathers, linen, and occasionally hemp, furs are reserved for cold-weather clothing and not common at all save among rural folk. Superior Quality tends to include elaborate embroidery around the hems and the buttons tend to be copper or bronze. Clothing for Commoners tends to be less than social statement and is more utilitarian in nature, though most commoner’s own not just the clothes on their back, but a set of “festival clothes” that they wear to celebrations and religious observances.

Men– Shirt (6) with Two Cufflinks (1 each), Vest (4) with Five Buttons (1 each), Breeches (6) with three Buttons (1 Each), Leggings (4), Socks (1), Shoes (1), Belt (1) – 27 Copper

  • Outerwear: Cloak (8) with Pin (3), Cap (3), Mittens (1) – 15 Copper
  • Riding Wear: None
  • Sleepwear: None
  • Accessories: Beltpouch (2), Coinpurse (1) – 3 Copper

Women– Blouse (6) with One Button (1), Long Skirt (6), Hairpin (3), Shoes (1), Hose (8), Hosiery Belt (2) Bodice (4), Belt (1), Chemise (3) – 35 Copper

  • =Outerwear: Cloak (8) with Pin (3), Cap (3), Mittens (1) – 15 Copper
  • =Riding Wear: None
  • =Sleepwear: None
  • =Accessories: Beltpouch (2), Coinpurse (1) – 3 Copper

 

MERCHANT’S GARB:

As a point of pride many Merchant refuse to wear cast-offs from Gentlefolk or Nobles, unless of course the fabric can repurposed in such as way as to obscure that fact. Similarly, Merchant garb is often dyed in a variety of colors with several gradients of shades evident from across the spectrum. Commonly of finer wools and linens, you will see cotton garments as well, along with leathers and some furs among those that travel regularly. Superior Quality tends to include elaborate embroidery, fine furs and leather around the hems, as well as more elaborate dyes and patterns – among the richest you will very occasionally see Cloth-of-Silver. The buttons tend to be silver, though these are expensive enough that one set of buttons is often owned and transferred between sets of clothing as needed. Clothing for Merchants tends to be both utilitarian in nature but also a social statement, especially the richer the merchant. Merchant’s tend to own three or more sets of clothing, two sets for everyday wear and a set of “festival clothes.” Some guilds may require a special set of clothing (or outerwear) for use in special guild functions and those Merchant’s who ride extensively will also own a set of Riding Wear.

Men– Shirt (6) with Two Cufflinks (1 each) and Two Buttons (1 Each), Vest (4) with Five Buttons (1 each), Breeches (6) with three Buttons (1 each), Leggings (4), Socks (1), Shoes (1), Broadbelt (4) with Buckle (3) , Codpiece (2) – 43 Silver

  • =Outerwear: Cloak (8) with Pin (3), Hat (4), Gloves (2), Gaiters (2) – 19 Silver
  • =Sleepwear: Nightshirt (6) – 6 Silver
  • =Riding Wear: None or High Boots (6), Gauntlets (4) – 10 Silver
  • =Accessories: Beltpouch (2), Coinpurse (1) – 3 Silver

Women– Full Dress (10), Hairpin (3), Shoes (1), Hose (8), Hosiery Belt (2), Bodice (4), Belt (1) with Buckle (3), Brassiere (4), Chemise (3), Petticoats (4) – 40 Silver

  • =Outerwear: Cloak (8) with Pin (3), Hat (4), Gloves (2) – 17 Silver
  • =Sleepwear: Nightshirt (6) – 6 Silver
  • =Riding Wear: None or Soft Boots (2), Riding Skirt with Six Buttons (14), Gloves (2) – 18 Silver
  • =Accessories: Beltpouch (2), Coinpurse (1) – 3 Silver

 

GENTLEFOLK’S GARB:

Gentlefolk as a social class covers a certain level of semi-idle wealth that comes a variety of sources. Many Gentlefolk are minor nobles or very rich merchants and guildsmen, but it also covers wealthy adventurers, bards and skalds, courtesans and tantrics, and those who rub elbows with the most powerful. Generally made of fine wools, linens, cottons, leathers, etc. you will occasionally see some silk, velvet, and velour in the most expensive garb, along with elaborate embroidery, fines furs and leathers, and truly amazing dyes and patterns as well as Cloth-of-Electrum. The structural design still tends to wards the practical, though more layers and additional accoutrements and accessories are common. As with merchants, buttons are traded between sets of clothing to reduce costs. Gentlefolk often own at least three sets of clothing, two sets of everyday wear and an additional set of festival garb for special occasions. Those who travel considerably will often own an additional set of clothing for travel. Those who are going to attend court regularly will often invest in either an outfit of Noble’s garb (if they are a Noble) or Superior or Masterwork Gentlefolk garb. This is often the everyday wear of nobles from the countryside who nonetheless wish to remain fashionable and dress as befits their station.

Men– Shirt (6) with Four Cufflinks (1 each) and Two Buttons (1 Each), Doublet (12) with Five Buttons (1 each) and Sleeves (4), Breeches (6) with 3 Buttons (1 Each), Codpiece (2), Leggings (4), Socks (1), Shoes (1), Broadbelt (4) with Buckle (3), Collar (4) – 61 Electrum

  • =Outerwear: Cloak (8) with Pin (3), Hat (4), Gloves (2), Gaiters (2) – 19 Electrum
  • =Riding Wear: High Boots (6), Gauntlets (4) – 10 Electrum
  • =Sleepwear: Nightshirt (6), Robe (12) – 18 Electrum
  • =Accessories: Beltpouch (2), Coinpurse (1), Pomander (3) – 6 Electrum

Women– Full Dress (10) with 4 Cufflinks (1 Each) and 10 Buttons (1 Each), Hairpin (3), Shoes (1), Hose (8), Hosiery Belt (2), Corset (8), Bodice (4), Belt (1) with Buckle (3), Chemise (3), Petticoats (4) – 61 Electrum

  • =Outerwear: Cloak (8) with Pin (3), Hat (4), Gloves (2) – 17 Electrum
  • = Sleepwear: Nightshirt (8), Robe (12) – 18 Electrum
  • =Riding Wear: Soft Boots (2), Riding Skirt with Six Buttons (14), Gauntlets (4) – 20 Electrum
  • =Accessories: Beltpouch (2), Coinpurse (1), Pomander (3) – 6 Electrum

 

NOBLE’S GARB:

Noble Garb is less about practicality and more about the display or power, wealth, and privilege (it is also generally about one-and-half times more encumbering than other clothing dues to it’s extravagant nature). Suitable for wear at court functions it is made of the finest wools, linens, cottons, leathers. Silks, velvets, velours, damasks are also found in the most expensive garb, along with elaborate embroidery, fines furs and leathers, and truly amazing dyes and patterns as well as Cloth-of-Gold. As with merchants and gentlefolk, buttons are often traded between sets of clothing, though many nobles do have multiple sets of buttons for different occasions. Nobles often own at least three sets of clothing, two sets of everyday wear and an additional set of festival garb for special occasions. Those who travel considerably will often own an additional set of clothing for travel, though save for the richest nobles this is commonly Gentlefolk Garb.

Men– Shirt (6) with Six Cufflinks (1 each) and Three Buttons (1 Each), Doublet (12) with Five Buttons (1 each) and Sleeves (4), Breeches (6) with 5 Buttons (1 Each), Codpiece (2), Leggings (4), Socks (1), Shoes (1), Broadbelt (4) with Buckle (3), Collar (4) – 67 Gold

  • =Outerwear: Cloak (8) with Pin (3), Hat (4), Fine Gloves (8), Gaiters (2) – 25 Gold
  • =Sleepwear: Nightshirt (6), Robe (12) – 18 Gold
  • =Riding Wear: Soft Boots (2), Gauntlets (4) – 6 Gold
  • =Accessories: Beltpouch (2), Coinpurse (1), Pomander (3) – 6 Gold

Women– Full Dress (10) with 8 Cufflinks (1 Each) and 15 Buttons (1 Each), Hairpin (3), Shoes (1), Hose (8), Hosiery Belt (2), Corset (8), Bodice (4), Belt (1) with Buckle (3), Chemise (3), Petticoats (4) – 70 Gold

  • =Outerwear: Cloak (8) with Pin (3), Hat (4), Fine Gloves (8), Gaiters (2) – 25 Gold
  • =Sleepwear: Nightshirt (6), Robe (12) – 18 Gold
  • =Riding Wear: Soft Boots (2), Riding Skirt with Ten Buttons (18), Gauntlets (4) – 24 Gold
  • =Accessories: Beltpouch (2), Coinpurse (1), Pomander (3) – 6 Gold

 

HIGH COURT GARB:

This sort of clothing is rare, used and generally worn only by the very richest of nobles for the most formal of occasions (the royal court, the highest of religious ceremonies, etc). The clothing is uniformly costly and ostentations, often being twice as bulky as a normal. It is made of the most expensive fabrics and trim, Silk, Velvet, Velour, Damask, Exotic leathers and furs, Cloth-of-Platinum, etc. Save for royalty or the most powerful peers of the realm rarely does anyone own more than one set of this garb. Such nobles would commonly wear Noble’s garb for everyday wear, and New or Exotic fashions for festivals.

Men– Shirt (6) with Eight Cufflinks (1 each) and Three Buttons (1 Each), Doublet (12) with Five Buttons (1 each) and Sleeves (4) with 2 Cufflinks (1 each), Breeches (6) with 7 Buttons (1 Each), Codpiece (2), Leggings (4), Socks (1), Shoes (1), Broadbelt (4) with Buckle (3), Collar (4) – 72 Platinum

  • =Outerwear: Mantle (6) with Pin (3), Cape (8) with Pin (3), Fine Gloves (8) – 28 Platinum

Women– Full Dress (10) with 10 Cufflinks (1 Each) and 20 Buttons (1 Each), Hairpin (3), Shoes (1), Hose (8), Hosiery Belt (2), Corset (8), Bodice (4), Belt (1) with Buckle (3), Chemise (3), Petticoats (4) – 77 Gold

  • =Outerwear: Mantle (6) with Pin (3), Cape (8) with Pin (3), Fine Gloves (8) – 28 Platinum
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The Source(s) of Magic

I am now reminded of another key and significant difference between 5e and 1e – where “magic” comes from.

According to 5e, all magic is the same and the different classes merely represent three broad methods for manipulating it – “Divine Magic” merely means that you see the act of manipulating the supernatural in terms of worship or veneration, while “Arcane Magic” means that you see it in terms of a science, while “Mysticism” means you view it as a more of an superpower or inherent ability.

All magic is magic, drawn from the same well. It is what makes the multi-class rules spellcasting rules work, and over all creates a simplified vision of the metaphysics underlying the game universe.

This is fundamentally different from 1e, where Divine Magic, Arcane Magic, and Psionics are quite different things. In 1e, Divine Magic is divine energy or mana that the cleric or druid channeled for their Deity. In fact, in the old nomenclature of Demi-, Lesser, and Greater Gods there were restrictions on the level spell that could be granted based on the power of the Deity – plus the higher level spell were granted (by daily prayer) either by a powerful minion of the Deity or by the Deity Itself.

Arcane Magic in 1e is pretty much like it is described in 5e, the individual caster learns how to manipulate the supernatural energies of magic through the use of formula that involve material, somatic, and verbal components. It’s a science, and the magic-users have learned it, and they are limited merely by their willpower to advance in level.

Psionics in 1e isn’t magic at all, it’s psychic abilities and operated on an entirely different premise.

But all of this just reaffirms the core differences underlying the rules and engine of the game. Now unlike, the Heroic Character of last post which I can totally get behind this “all magic is the same magic, drawn from the same well” is something that I’m not very enamored with. For example, in my old friend SD’s game, clerics were at a disadvantage if they were in an area where there wasn’t any worship of their Deity or there where no shrines or temples in Their Name. It made for an interesting thread in one bit of his campaign.

Currently, I’m experimenting with KR and her Druid/Wizard to allocate her spell levels like 1e instead of 5e. So instead of being a 11th level spell-caster with access to all of those spell-levels (including levels beyond what she can nominally cast save as boosted spells of lower level) we’re trying her out as  5th level caster and a 6th level caster whose spells are tracked separately and cannot “cross pollinate” as it were. It seems like it is working fine and if we don’t find any hidden problems that’s what I’ll stick with.

In any case, that’s my thoughts on the matter,

TTFN!

D.

 

 

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The Heroic Character

This post started out with the germ of an idea to compare, contrast, and the adjust the slimes and fungi of 1e vs. 5e. I’ll still probably do that, but that idea itself was rooted in disbelief that (evidently) some people consider 5e more lethal that previous editions…

Clearly they never played 1e.

But it started me thinking about the “heroic character” as the model of the D&D adventure (even if, say, the characters are evil anti-heroes). In 1e, all character race NPC’s either map to “0-level” (of a single d8 HD, save for humans which are d6) or function as character class-leveled NPC’s. In 2e there was a development of non-adventuring NPC classes IIRC like Noble, or Craftsman, or whatever – and this was part at least of where I just simply washed my hand of the game. In 3e this was evidently taken to the logical extreme and there was at least some version of all humanoid and demi-human monsters being leveled in character classes.

I can’t make much sense of the couple of things I have for 4e when it comes to deciphering this.

In 5e there is, for me at least, a relatively radical switch to NPC’s being (largely) non-character class leveled, even if they are “powerful class types”. By this I mean that while a NPC might be a 9th spell-caster or warrior they do not have all the class features of their nominal class. The old-style 0-level characters, might actually have a couple of HD now, and usually have some type of feature (“Parry” for Nobles, “Keen Hearing and Sight” for Scouts, etc.) or they might not have anything at all (see Guards & Bandits).

In 1e, Player Characters were part of an “ecosystem” in that if they looked around, they could see examples of themselves at various levels of power to aspire to. There was a clear “endgame” (and a Domain-game at that) for everyone, it was baked into both the RAW and the demographics of the encounter tables and the Monster Manual. While the Player Characters were heroes, it was because they stood above the 1d6 HP (not HD), 0-level NPC’s and represented people with some better training and/or experience. For example you could easily explain part of the backstory of a basic Fighter as having been a Mercenary Sergeant (all of whom are 1st level Fighters) who was now striking out on their own. When you look through the various adventure modules of the edition this is born out – there are 0-levels, and the scattering of leveled NPC’s in various special roles.

In 5e, the Player Characters – even a first level Player Character – are manifestly different than NPC’s – by the time they reach 3rd level and have chosen a subclass (if it takes them that long) they are  fundamentally beyond the ken of normal folk. More HD, multiple class features at this point, and perhaps they most significant (even at 1st level) they are especially lucky or divinely blessed because they get proficiency bonus on two saves – making them significantly more hardy than “normal folks”. It’s not that you can’t have a character-class leveled NPC, but they are far from the norm. They are as much of a stand out as the Player Characters themselves.

Some of this is rambling, my own game has hit a stage where the Player Characters are quite powerful (the top end of Tier 2 or start of Tier 3) and I’ve been working at bringing my campaign world forward into 5e. It is this fundamental difference that, I believe, has been a hidden piece of grit in the system. It’s not bad, I actually like it, but it changes the ways NPC’s function in the campaign setting and it changes how people view the Player Characters once their special status becomes apparent.

To wit, the most whitebread of PC’s is a 1st Level Fighter – who has both a Fighting Style and Second Wind, plus a Hit Die that puts them on par with a Large Creature! At second level they get Action Surge, and finally at 3rd they pick up the start of their Martial Archtype class features. All compared to a 1HD Commoner or a 2HD Guard/Bandit with no special features even a 2HD Noble simply gets a ‘Parry’ (which is basically a Fighting Style).

Wow!

Pound for Pound, Player Characters are simply more effective than NPCs. They are going to inspirational (good or ill) depending on the viewer and their actions. This came up somewhat a few sessions ago in my game when the 9th Level Fighter (Battlemaster) and local Baron tried to pass off the dangerous threat the party discovered to “whatever the king’s ‘special forces’ would be” and I laughed and said “You’re it!” and explained that he was close to being one of the most powerful warriors in the kingdom. In retrospect, I might have to change that and say that he might very well be the most powerful warrior in the kingdom when you figure on all his class features.

In the past, in AD&D, I used to be pretty generous in handing out extra’s and freebies in the way of weird abilities and bonues as a way to show that the Player Character’s were often special and blessed (or cursed) but if I use 5e the way that the RAW is written up then that is not generally needed. You simply have to use (or create) the stat blocks provided – the already heady advantages the Player Characters have given the action economy and difficulty in actually dying become even more stark.

TTFN!

D.

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OMFG… What a nerf…

So, I just spent some time reading the stats on Green Slime, Black Pudding, etc. in 5E.

I certainly get that 5E dumped the whole “Save or Die” thing, I don’t even disagree with that (though I’m re-instituting my old Crit and Fumble tables, two Natural 20’s is an instant kill!). But talk about making an old and very scary set of monsters utterly underwhelming…

Yeah, I’m Noping right out of that.

Expect these things to act more like out of 1E, perhaps I’ll write some stats up later and post them. But what a waste of an excellent old set of monsters!

D

 

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Mystic, Psionics, and 5E vs AD&D Balance

So, the playtest of the full, 20-level, Mystic came out via Unearthed Arcana last week and it looks pretty decent. I’m not sure I like all of it, but I like most of it and I find the whole package quite workable even if I have some qualms about specific Disciplines and don’t think there are enough Talents.

I also don’t like that there is no “psionic vs. psionic” combat – all psionic attacks work against anyone, and there is seemingly no benefit in being psionic when it comes to resisting psionic attacks or damage.

Part of this is because I want to keep some of the flavor of AD&D psionics, and there are a handful of things which don’t translate well or haven’t been translated at all – and there are some things which I like a great deal and because I never played 3E or 4E or even any 2E Psionics, I never had any exposure to them. I played with a “Psionics as the random extra” straight out of the Player’s Handbook and the Psionicist class out of the Dragon Magazine. I also used the Deryni from the same issue and adapted various races do include an innately psionic component.

Now, you could certainly adapt Feats as a way to grant some access to psionics without having to go full-Mystic or even have to adopt a psionic subclass (which I am sure will appear sooner or later, I’m pretty sure that’s what the Soul Knife is going to end up as). There are the Magic Initiate and Ritual Caster Feats and some analogy would be easy enough to develop.

But I’m also a fan of the “psionics as a rare and random extra” for characters. So my current thought experiment is that there is a percentage chance equal to the total of the character’s modifiers for Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma that the character is psionic. This might be too high, I haven’t checked against the old chances in 1E.

And then a table both for total number and for random Disciplines and Talents – similar to the old 1E method of handling things. I’d probably make Psionic Strength Points a multiplier of level rather than the completely random method used in 1E, perhaps 2x or 3x level, so that it is always lower than an actual Mystic.

5E has attempted (and failed, as usual) to keep characters tightly balanced. The action economy, the mostly nonsense of bounded accuracy, the general increase of hit points, and the overall nerfing of spell-casting (fewer slots, concentration, etc). The problem is that even with spell-casters being nerfed, they still outclass other classes in Tier 3 & 4 play. Some are positively sickening such as the Eldritch Blast Warlock, and the non-caster melee types simply pale in comparison.

As broken as Exalted was (is), this is where it was amazing with it’s Charms, you could play a melee character and it was as bad-ass as a spell-caster (possibly more so in some ways, but that was the nature of the wuxia-inspired system).

So, as an old 1E AD&D DM, I’m much more comfortable with characters of unequal power, and in fact with characters that are fundamentally more powerful than they are in 5E. Heck, I have a campaign world somewhat predicated on it, there’s some wriggle-room, but I really wouldn’t want to depend on a 5E Tier 4 character for the fate of the multiverse…

Pretty much all my house rules continue in the vein of making 5E characters more powerful, especially the spell-casters. We are miles away from the quadratic casters of earlier editions, but I simply have no problems with the idea of high-level casters being significantly more powerful than melee-types.

When I think of high-level spell-casters I’m thinking Gandalf fighting 1v1 with the Balarog (yes, yes, I know that they’re both really angels, but you know what I mean) or Ged fighting multiple dragons by himself, or Elric, or Pug, or even Doctor Strange. These are characters you really can’t replicate any more given the power restrictions of 5E.

D.

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Updates and Skills vs Tools vs Professions

Yeah, so I’ve spent some time today updating my House Rules page, as well as a large number of entries. I can’t say it’s done yet (will it ever?), but things are moving in the right direction.

I’m kind of thinking about a series of posts, one for each profession, that lays out who and where you could find them for my campaign world. There’s all sorts of odd nuances here and there that would be nice to spell out.

I’m also thinking that I hate how the Tools rules end up working out. Essentially, all you need to be able to do is learn how to use a Tool kit (which takes about six months according to the RAW if I recall correctly) and you can make a living at any particular profession. Having been a tradesman for part of my life I can certainly address the fallacy in that but from a strictly gameist perspective it creates an odd mix of things when it comes to Backgrounds and Character Class.

Plus some of those Tool Kits should take a heck of a lot more to learn than a six-month course. Alchemy? Herbalism? Smithcraft? It seems like there should be something like Professions (which are “easy” to start out with) and a selection of skills that, while representing a profession, also require investing something like a Feat (like Alchemy) because of there breadth and depth of knowledge involved. This might mean some more benefits, or it might just mean that the base benefits are just that good.

IDK, something to ponder…

TTFN!

D.

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Gift of the Ancients and the Shield of the Faithful

Nanietharil – Gift of the Ancients

A vest of Masterwork Leaf Armor made of overlapping layers of Ironwood carved into the form of tiny leaves. It’s dark hue is broken by a leaf-and-branch pattern of bronze and gold.

Requirements:

  • Proficient in Medium Armor
  • Survival Skill
  • Elven or Half-Elven Blood

Properties:

  • +2 Ironwood Leaf Armor Vest (AC 13)
  • Resistance to Non-Magical Slashing, Piercing, and Bludgeoning Damage
  • Considered Enchanted
  • Treated as Light Armor
  • May re-roll any Survival skill check, 1/day.
  • When wooded or grassy areas, the leaves shift in shape and hue to match the native flora.

Level Bonuses:

  • 5th: One with the Wild – Characters with the Animal Handling skill may use it with non-domesticated animals.
  • 6th: Walk Unseen – The character has Advantage on Stealth checks in natural surroundings.
  • 7th: Walker in the Wild – The character has Advantage on Survival checks.
  • 8th: +3 Ironwood Leaf Armor Vest (AC 14)
  • 10th: Voice of the Wild – 3/Day – May Speak with Animals as the spell.
  • 12th: Armor of the Wild – A character wearing this while using the Wild Shape class feature gains all the benefits of the armor.
  • 13th: +4 Ironwood Leaf Armor Vest (AC 15)
  • 14th: Predator’s Dash – Base speed increases by 10′ per round.
  • 16th: Shape of the Wild – A character with the Wild Shape class feature gains one additional use of this ability per day.

The Aegis Inviolable – Shield of the Faithful

A Kite Shield of Fine Quality and sized for a Medium creature made of fire-blackened steel. It is bordered in bright sunsteel, with the sunburst symbol of the same metal in the center.

Requirements:

  • Proficiency with Shields
  • Proficiency with Heavy Armor
  • Religion Skill
  • Good Alignment

Properties:

  • +1 Kite Shield (+3 AC)
  • Considered Enchanted
  • The wielder is considered one level higher for the purposes of Turning and Destroying Undead as long as they already have that class feature.
  • When strapped onto the wielders arm, the sunburst symbol glows brightly. While not bright enough to provide any illumination, it makes it impossible to hide or sneak about unseen.

Level Bonuses:

  • 5th: Light Fortification – 25% to negate Critical Hits or Sneak Attacks
  • 6th: Energy Aegis – 1/Day – Can choose Resistance to a single type of energy as a Reaction, this last 1 round.
  • 8th: Holy Vessel – For Clerics and Paladins of Good Alignment, the Aegis Inviolate functions as their Holy Symbol.
  • 9th: +2 Kite Shield (+4 AC)
  • 10th: Protection of the Gods – 1/Day – The wielder may use the Shield of Faith spell.
  • 11th: Energy Aegis Inviolable – The Resistance (q.v.) becomes Immunity.
  • 12th: Medium Fortification – 50% to negate Critical Hits or Sneak Attacks
  • 13th: +3 Kite Shield (+5 AC)
  • 16th: Divine Ward – 1/Day – The wielder may invoke a Death Ward as a Reaction.
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Druidic Foci and Tools

Druids as a character class actually cover a wide range of related, even similar but still quite different religions, commonly referred to as the Old Faith. Similar to Priestly Vestments, the tools and instruments of the Druids are a sign of their religious status as well as being regular ritual tools and foci. Of these, only the Torc, Crane Skin Bag, and Cloak are possible to be found used by related classes (such as Rangers or Bards of the College of the Old Faith) and the Druid’s tend to keep their secrets close. All of these items must be attuned, and while Druid’s themselves are not generally punished for losing such items – the uninitiated and thieves are often cursed or worse by the Old Powers.

 

Druid’s Cloak – Woven to be warm in cold weather and cool in the heat, the Druid’s Robes grant them Advantage on Survival Checks, these robes mark the wearer as a Druid. The robes also grant the Druid Advantage on Stealth Checks when in the wilderness. It also provides Resistance to damage from Beasts, and allows the Druid personal use of Invisibility to Beasts once between rests.

Druids Boline – Druids are steeped in tradition, and the boline is an ancient design – a curved, bronze blade that are used primarily for ritual work (Archdruids often have one made of Orikalkium). Enchanted to be as hard as steel, it is a Bane to Aberrations, Demons, and Lycanthropes. It is also used to harvest herbs and perform sacrifices – it is not to be used against mundane foes or for profane tasks. It can function as a Druidic Focus.

As Druids gain levels, they often increase the magical power of their tools and instruments, as in the following examples:

Druid’s Torc – An often ornate neck ring of bronze or precious metals with a variety of animal motifs worn by women, warriors, and those of higher social station. They are meant to be worn at all times, and are invariably damaged removed. The Druid’s Torc allows them to cast spells while wearing it in animal form during Wild Shape. It also increases the Spell Slots by one of each level. It also allows the use of Animal Friendship once per Long Rest.

Druid’s Crane Skin Bag – Traditionally made of crane skin in the Heartlands, the bag is a small repository of various small items of personal, mystic and spiritual significance for the Druid that must remain secret from all others. Of all the Druid’s Tools, this is the most precious as if it is held by another the Druid has Disadvantage in all things and the bearer has Advantage against the Druid in all things. If opened and scattered, the Druid loses all spell-casting abilities until the next new moon, and creating a new one (which generally does not remove the power of the old one) takes about two months per level of the Druid. It has a number of abilities:

  • It grants the Druid Inspiration, once between Rests.
  • It grants the use of the Guidance cantrip for the sole use of the Druid.
  • It allows the recall of a single Spell Slot, no higher than half the Druid’s level, once between Long Rests.
  • It can function as a Druidic Focus.
  • The Druid always knows where their Crane Skin Bag is.

Druid’s Anguinum – A small construct or occasionally a natural stone or crystal in the shape of an egg containing precious herbs and the essence of serpents, it is an aid to healing and herbalism. It provides Advantage on all skill checks related to healing and medicine (and, poison lore). It also allows the use of the Detect Poison and Disease ritual. It can be used as an Druidic Focus.

Druid’s Cauldron – Sometimes plain but more often ornate, the Druid’s Cauldron is a large container used in various rituals. In addition to these uses, it also has a number of other abilities.

  • It can Purify Water as a Ritual.
  • It can create a refreshing draught that can heal each member of the party once between Long Rests. This heals 2 Hit Dice worth of damage (without costing Hit Dice), removes a single level of Exhaustion, and cures Poison and grant Inspiration.
  • It can cast Scrying as a Ritual.
  • Grants Advantage to Alchemy Checks when used during the process.

Druids Staff – Traditionally two handspans in length taller than the Druid, the Druid’s Staff allows the use of the Shillelagh Cantrip on itself at any time. At its most basic the staff has the following characteristics.

  • Treated as an Enchanted, +1 weapon per five full levels of the character.
  • The staff does additional damage of an elemental type chosen by the Druid equal to their Proficiency bonus.
  • When held and planted on the ground, the Staff provides Advantage on Saving Throws against and Resistance to Arcane damage.
  • It increases their Spell Slots by one of each level.
  • It can function as a Druidic Focus.
  • The Druid always knows where their staff is located.

Archdruid’s rarely have any special items that mark them as being particularly different from lesser Druids. They are far more likely to simply have more puissant magic, and just generally more items at their disposal. Archdruids is less the actual term of strict hierarchical rank in this instance and more a term denoting the higher ranking Druids in their orders.

In the Heartlands, the Old Faith is a relatively structured with matching orders of male and female Druids and related groups of Rangers and Bards – with occasional Paladins and Warlocks in the mix, not to mention the occasional solitary Druid out in the woods, disconnected from any hierarchy. In Kistath there is a similar Old Faith that is focused on the Old Powers of the deserts, and in Ith you can find occasional, isolated shaman who follow their own path based on the spirits of the jungle.

Wood Elves are primarily Druid in spirituality, but like all elven spirituality it is often a more personal matter rather than an organized religion in the way that humans practice – but also with a strong connection to their Berserkers. That said, those E’lin who practice Druidry are highly respected and their Tools are often similar to those of human Druids – suggesting a strong connection. Instead of a Staff that are quite likely to use a Warspear instead.

Gnomes are also highly Druidic, worshipping a Great Mother and a Green Man with a respect for the Old Powers. Their tools are similart though instead of a Staff they common use a Wand of some sort it it’s place. They do not have the highly structured religion of humans, but do have an organized structure along clan lines.

Finally, some Khazan follow the Old Faith as well. Often a more bloody and dire sort, with Hunstman Archtype Rangers in attendance. Again, their Tools and Foci are often quite similar to other Druids, but they do not have an structured hierarchy or an organized religion.

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Priestly Vestments and Foci (5e)

While the details and forms of the foci and instruments of clergy will vary considerably from religion to religion, there have developed a common set of vestments that different priests and priestesses use. These Vestments mark the wearer as clergy or as one of the related professions. Depending upon the religion it will likely even identify specific orders as well as a ranks and roles. Those who wear Vestments can include Paladins, and certainly there is the potential for some Archtypes with Divine magic to use them as well. These items require Attunement – and any divine servant that loses, mistreats, or misuses their vestments suffers Disadvantage at the very least until the wrong is righted, often Curses and other punishments plague such misfortunate priests. The creation of vestments is included in the training of most clergy, though examples abound of them being created simply be strength of faith and devotion itself. Similarly, the vestments of the most devout (or wealthy) priests may have additional abilities beyond those listed here.

All of the items are considered magical and have Advantage on all of their saves.

The Priest’s Holy Text – Most priests carry at least a basic copy of their religions Holy Text. The length and breadth of this can vary considerably from religion to religion, and the beauty and ornateness of the copy or edition can also vary – much like a Holy Symbol. The primary use of the Holy Text is as a teaching aid, and as a source of Inspiration. During a Short or a Long Rest, a any sufficiently devout individual can grant themselves Inspiration by reading and reviewing their Holy Text, a priest can do it for themselves and any other members of the same faith that are present.

The Priest’s Book of Rites – Many priests also keep a copy of their Book of Rites handy, as this is required to cast Ritual Spells. For many religions it also has the information for the proper ceremonies when performing marriages, last rites, naming and dedications, along with the creation of holy water, holy oils, etc. At their most basic, a Book of Rites contains only a handful of Ritual Spells as well as basic community rites, at great temples or seminaries these may be a huge tomes with Ritual Versions of each and every spell that a cleric could cast.

The Priest’s Holy Symbol – The most basic of a priest’s vestments, the Holy Symbol is a cleric’s basic Divine Focus. Some spells may require additional components, but the presence of a Holy Symbol is necessary for all Divine magic. The appearance of a holy symbol can vary considerably depending upon the wealth and social class of the cleric or temple it comes from. Unlike a Wizard’s Wand however, any of the devout may carry a Holy Symbol, and it’s mere presence does not confirm the bearer as a priest. A priest merely openly bearing or presenting a Holy Symbol benefits from Protection vs Good & Evil (and this is a common enchantment on Holy Symbols for the devout). A priest presenting a Holy Symbol and Concentrating, may invoke Sanctuary for themselves.

As Priests gain higher levels it is not uncommon for them to gain increased magical items such as the following:

The Priest’s Robes – The most commonly visible and obvious of the vestments, these come in many different version. From the cassocks of the Church of the Lords of Light, to the robes of the En Khoda Theos Kirk, to the mask of the priest of the Midnight Sun or even the blackened splint mail of Khazan shamans. Aside from clearly marking them as clergy, a priests robes allow the priest the use of the Shield of the Faithful once between Long Rests.

The Priest’s Prayer Beads – A length of beads, usually with a set number according to doctrine and faith, often of particular materials. They may be worn as a necklace, a bracelet, or even simply hanging from the belt or kept in a pouch. The faithful use Prayer Beads to guide their individual worship, both prayers and mediation. Priests may also use their Prayer Beads in two special ways. First, it allows them to maintain Concentration on one additional spell if held in the hand. Second, using it allows them a Divine Recovery after a Short Rest if that is all that they focus on. They may recover spell levels equal to half their level, none of them higher than 6th level.

The Priest’s Girdle – Generally in the form of a belt or cincture or some sort to wear around their Robes, the Priest’s Girdle is another of the Vestments that commonly mark the wearer as a priest – and the absence of which (much like Robes) may cause some to question the authenticity or veracity of the claimant. When worn, the Girdle allows the personal use of the Resistance cantrip if they do not know the it, and also grants them the effect of an Aid spell once between Long Rests.

The term “Archpriest” in this context means that the following items, as Vestments, are often reserved for specific ranks within a religious hierarchy – or that they can only be created and gifted by higher ranks. They are often reflective of the greater divine mandate that these priests have, and are often reserved for Clerics of 10th level or greater. Exceptions have been made in some cases, and for the particularly devout but lower ranked priests, they may find that their “lesser vestments” may take on some or all of these abilities as well. These are the equivalents of Bishops, Cardinals, Abbots, and similarly ranked religious figures.

The Archpriest’s Medallion – Often an ornate piece included in either a set of Prayer Beads, the Archpriest’s Medallion often commemorates some special event or personage. In the Church of the Lords of Light it might be one of the Elect, while in the En Khoda Theos Kirk it might some special crystal or stone from the site of a significant manifestation of one of the Great Dragons. When included as part of a set of Prayer Beads, it does not require separate Attunement. This is the one Archpriest item that is most commonly found in the possession of non-Archpriests – often gifted to favored priests and other members of the Faithful.

  • Can hold Concentration for one spell cast by the Cleric.
  • Can use a Bless once before requiring a Short or Long Rest.
  • Can use an Aid spell once before requiring a Short of Long Rest.
  • The Cleric gains one additional use of their Channel Divinity

The Archpriest’s Cloak – Often a more ornate and elaborate addition to the Priest’s Robes, this is often a short cloak or mantle such as chasuble or alb – though for some religions it can be nothing more that a veil.

  • Provides a bonus to AC equal to +1 per five full levels of the Cleric class.
  • The Cleric may use a Hellish Rebuke, but the damage is Radiant and the Save is Wisdom, once between Rests.

The Archpriest’s Pectoral – A large and ornate Holy Symbol that is worn on the chest as a reminder of the status and power of the Archpriest in question.

  • +2 to Armor Class (it is treated as a Breastplate)
  • Protection vs Good & Evil at all times
  • With Concentration can invoke Sanctuary as desired
  • The Cleric has Divine Favor.
  • The Cleric also radiates a Crusader’s Mantle

The Archpriest’s Signet – Essentially the religious version of a noble’s seal, an Archpriest’s Signet is a worn by those priests that hold high rank within their religious organization. These are commonly destroyed on their death of the priest that they were made for, though some faith’s pass them along to the next holder of the office. Using one without sanction is a guarantee of getting the attention of the church authorities – not top mention the Divine Power who sanctioned the item’s creation in the first place.

  • With members of their Faith, may issue a Command as a Standard Action.
  • Can use Bless as a Standard Action.
  • May use a Guardian of Faith once per day
  • The Cleric gains one additional Spell Slot for each Spell Level.
  • The Cleric gains one additional use of their Channel Divinity.

The Archpriest’s Crown – Like the Archpriest’s Signet (q.v.) the Archpriest’s Crown is a physical symbol of the priests spiritual and temporal might using a familiar secular symbol.

  • Members of the Faithful have Disadvantage on saves against the Clerics magic
  • The Cleric has Advantage when making Charisma check with members if the Faithful
  • Advantage on Saves against Enchantments.
  • The Crown gains one additional Spell Slot for each Spell Level.
  • The Cleric gains one additional use of their Channel Divinity

The Archpriest’s Sceptre – Often a symbol of both divine and temporal power, the Archpriest’s Sceptre is usually an ornate rod of office – though in some more blood-thirsty religions it may be an actual weapon and may then share some characteristics with a Sanctified Weapon (q.v.).

  • Treated as a Holy Symbol for purposes of casting spells.
  • Always treated, at a minimum, as an Enchanted Weapon.
  • Weapon damage can vary from that of a Club to a Warhammer.
  • Treated as a+1 weapon per five full levels of the Cleric class.
  • Does additional Radiant Damage equal to the Proficiency Bonus of the Cleric
  • Weapon Bonus also adds to Spell Strike and Spell Save modifier.

The Sanctified Weapon – Some faiths, as well as most religious orders of warriors (including Paladins), have deities which are closely associated with a particular weapon. These are actually able to be used by any member of the faithful, but holy law often reserves their use to Clerics & Paladins, or a few select others who are deemed the most worthy. Considered a Holy Weapon, these are often relics and highly prized by the Faithful.

  • Always treated, at a minimum, as an Enchanted Weapon.
  • Treated as a+1 weapon per five full levels of the character.
  • Does additional Radiant Damage equal to the Proficiency Bonus of the character.
  • Some are able to Smite as a Bonus action a number of time per day equal to their Channel Divinity (and recovered in a similar manner). Smiting a foe means that the wielder may add their level to the damage done (Radiant). On a Critical, this damage is doubled.

The Church of the Lords of Light uses all of these vestments, their Robes being a simple cassock (often in specific colors and design as guided by Rule and Rite), their Girdle is the typical triple-braided cord worn by all members of the faith, the Holy Symbol being an Argentos, and the Prayer Beads being simply that (and made from a variety if materials). Their Sanctified Weapon, commonly made of sunsteel, is either a fighting knife or a broadsword (less commonly a longsword and very rarely a battlesword or greatsword).

As befits the somewhat disorganized nature of the En Khoda Theos Kirk they are not particularly organized in their use of vestments. Their Holy Symbols, a Scale (usually of a drake, but rarely that of an actual dragon) combines the functions of both the Holy Symbol and the Girdle. Similarly, while some Dorje wear Robes with the standard effects, for others they wear a sash that (confusingly) combines the abilities of the Robes and Girdle (effects do not stack) – this is an ancient style preferred by the Dragonborn. Prayer beads are commonly carried, most commonly made of stone. Sanctified weapons are commonly mainly with the military religious orders of the Kenza, and are not nearly as common within the ranks of the Dorje. They do not, however, have holy texts, and while there are a series of philosophical treatises that can function in the same way as Holy Text there are no Books of Rites.

While the Heptarchy uses all of these vestments, the individual style depends upon the actual deity, few generalizations being able to be made. Holy Symbols are the solar and lunar symbols noted in the specific descriptions, and while Robes are worn by most of the clergy, for the priests of the Midnight Sun this is a Black Mask, while for the Daughter of Blood they a considered Robed if nude and covered with a least some freshly spilled blood. The Sister of Bone only has prayer beads of bone, while Mother of Pearl uses only pearls. Sanctified Weapons are most common among the followers of Sol Invictus (usually sword, spear, or lance), Sister of Bone (bone dagger), and Daughter of Blood (battle axe of some sort).

A Note On Damage: While the damage done is generally Radiant for religions that are Good or Neutral, some Neutral and most Evil will do Necrotic damage instead. For some Deities, especially those with an Elemental or Nature portfolio, the damage may be Fire, Thunder, Lightning, or even Poison. This is determined by the Dungeon Master.

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