Monthly Archives: March 2015

Ouch! So that’s not going to work…

Well, the term “palace revolt” isn’t quite the right term but boy howdy, the gaming group really didn’t like the different experience point system. Fundamentally, the complaints boiled down to the sense that it wasn’t fair. Tying XP to personal damage done and taken, even with group awards based on overall totals and creatures defeated had various players feeling as if characters who primarily buffed, hexed, or healed were being penalized for choosing to do something other than fighting and doing damage.

So, back to the drawing board – and by that I mean the CR Chart.

Fundamentally, even more so in 5E than even in 1E, the D&D experience system is essentially blood magic. I kill it (or defeat it), and I steal it’s power, and I get stronger (at least in 1E you also got XP for cash and magical items) – little creatures have less of the élan vital, powerful creatures have more. I was totally willing to grant an increase in XP if it was tied to damage (and seriously, I think the “damage taken” is really elegant idea and solution to a couple of problems that come from the actual game mechanics of how combat works in the game), but the moment we try to tie XP to “things my character does” any hope of creating a balanced system that scales to the characters levels and abilities is flushed right down the porcelain altar (and, fundamentally, gets away from the basic underpinning of the D&D experience system).

Or at least, I’m an utterly uninterested in doing the statistical analysis of spells, class abilities, and skills as matrixed to proficiency bonus and/or mechanic equally matrixed to either monster combat rating or, again, damage done and damage taken.

Ugh, just thinking about the multivariate stats involved makes my head hurt…

So, I took a long hard look at the CR evaluation rules in the DMG and figure I’ll just run with the first, very basic system they suggest for figuring out a monster based on the CR you want it to be. I’ll basically reverse the process, and just run with it. It’s kludgy, it is really, really rough – but it’s not like the CR system is any paragon of elegance or even mediocre game design in the first place (it’s actually more like some vestigial remnant left from 3E or 3.5E as best I figure).

But I’ll be able to figure out the CR, and thus the XP for any monster I make. The slightly modified chart (to account for my change in the Dexterity & Armor Class rules, plus the full range of possible attack bonuses – both of which merely tweak the progression in the CR20 to CR30 range) fits on a single printed page.

C’est la vie!



Categories: Game Design, House Rules | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The Warforged, Survivors of the Great Fleet

“I was once a human like you, but the ravages of the Mad God’s War were dire and we chose to transcend weak flesh. Once we served the Iron Court, now we are the Iron Court and we rule what remains of the Old Tierna. We remain warriors, though our war has changed, and comport ourselves with the discipline and focus that this needs. Though born in the chaos of the old world, we do our best to bring order to the new one we find ourselves in.”

-Fifth Scout, Third Company of the Warlord’s Own Regiment


The Warforged are the remnants of the Great Fleet of Tierna. After fleeing from Witch King and the chaos of the aftermath of the Mad God’s War they travelled across the Mortal Realms and eventually ended up in the Great Waste where they survived and ultimately even thrived. A little over three-hundred years ago they returned to the Heartlands of Avalon to retake the remnants of Tierna. The Iron Court holds the secrets of creating Warforged close, and rumors abound about the process – that the Warforged are actually bound undead, summoned fiends, clever constructs that were never actually human, or worse. The transition to Warforged does not merely change the physical form, it also creates a certain remove from the hot-blooded passions of humanity. By human terms the Warforged often come across as dispassionate, but this in no way should be taken as a lack of dedication to their goals, values, or ideals – but their emotions have become abstracted in many ways. They are also rarely found outside the environs of the Iron Court, though a few Warforged have “mustered out” – though this more often translates as “deserted” by the authorities of the Iron Court.

Statistic Modifiers: +1 Strength, +1 Constitution, -1 Charisma, -1 Wisdom

Languages: Old Tiernaese, Tiernaese

Size, Speed, and Appearance: Warforged stand 5′ tall (+2d10), and weigh 160 lbs (x4d4) lbs. Their Size is Medium and their Speed is 30 feet per round. They are somewhat taller and broader than humans, but much heavier. The oldest of the Warforged are barely or even non-gendered, but over time more and more gendered features have been added with new converts. In appearance they are made of plates and cables of metal and stone, with expressionless faces – though their eyes will brighten and dim with emotional intensity. While the basic appearance of Warforged is essentially the same, the various Forges which create them tend to use subtly different materials that can be discerned by those of sufficient knowledge. All Warforged also a set of runes at the nape of their neck with their rank and unit, as well as any titles that they may have been granted.

Common Dress: In the lands of the Iron Court, the Warforged tend to wear battle harness and little more. In other lands they may adopt kilts or robes in acknowledgment of local customs (though they are often mistaken for golems). Rogue Warforged are known to wear all manner of clothing, use bodypaint, as well as various accessories and jewelry – or continue to follow the customs of the Iron Court.

Lifespan: Warforged essentially have no childhood or adolescence, they are at “physical maturity” at the moment of creation. There is a very short (measured in weeks) period of physical acclimation, and since they are all created from a previously living human they all have the basic knowledge of the world and life that might be expected. The upper end of their natural lifespan has not yet been discovered, the oldest among them are over a thousand years old and remember the chaos following the Mad Gods War. They generally begin play at 10 +1d4 years of age.

Common Culture: The culture of the Warforged is rooted and Old Tiernaese military culture and society, but filtered through centuries of survival hidden in the Great Waste and elsewhere. It’s also impacted by the generally dispassionate nature of the Warforged themselves, becoming somewhat more disciplined and intellectual where it is was once filled with soldiers and sailors who frequented bawdyhouses. Centuries of discipline and refinement has also created a military machine that retains a clear hierarchy but is also remarkably egalitarian – the mission matter more than rank. Since returning to the Heartlands, the Warforged have held themselves somewhat aloof from their subjects, somewhat at a loss as to how to deal with …humans. It takes Warforged decades to build up an appreciable predictive understanding of human emotions, as well as the nuanced understanding of their own muted emotional responses (including related concepts as humor).

Common Backgrounds: The Criminal, Outcast, Outlander, and Soldier Backgrounds are most appropriate for Warforged.

Naming Conventions: Warforged choose nicknames from a variety of sources over their lives, formally their “name” if their rank and unit designation in the Great Fleet – with occasional noble titles for those of the greatest achievements.

Common Alignments: The Warforged center around the Neutral alignments – Neutral and Lawful Neutral being quite popular. Due to their changes, Warforged often seem to have odd or obscure views on morality, so they can easily fall into Neutral Evil or less commonly Neutral Good territory, and similarly some also follow the Chaotic Neutral path.

Common Religions: The Warforged almost exclusively worship the Great Elemental Dragons, belonging to a variant philosophy and organization known as the Svastika. Unlike the Quatrefoil, the Svastika espouses a martial philosophy that emphasizes the survival of the fittest along with a dedication to the various aspects of the Great Elemental Dragons. Those few Warforged who don’t belong to the Svastika tend to worship Godlings of the Court of Flint and Steel.

Common Classes:  Preferred — Monk, Fighter, Rogue; Common — Barbarian, Ranger, Paladin; Uncommon — Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard; Rare — Cleric, Bard; Very Rare — Druid

Common Professions: The original Warforged were created out of the Great Army of the Mad God that fled in the aftermath the Mad God’s War, as such they were all members of military units – primarily infantry and scouts. Since then, and especially since returning to Avalon, there have been Warforged created with a less militaristic outlook. To this day, almost the entirety of the Warforged remain loyal to the Iron Court, only a comparative handful have turned their backs on their brethren and struck out to forge a separate destiny.

Racial Traits

Composite Plating: The Warforged construction incorporates wood and metal, granting them a base Armor Class of 12.

Living Construct: Fundamentally the Warforged are a living creatures, albeit ones that have been transformed into sorcerous amalgams of metal, wood, and spirit. As a result of this they are immune to disease, nor do they need to eat or breathe, though they can ingest food and drink if they wish. They are also immune to the Exhaustion condition.

Unsleeping Sentinel: The Warforged have moved beyond the need to sleep. Instead, they settle into a resting state, remaining semiconscious for 4 hours each day, though they are aware of their surroundings. After resting in this way, they gain the benefit of a Long Rest.

Warforged Resilience: The Warforged have advantage on Saving Throws against Poison, as well as Resistance against Poison damage.

Self-Stabilizing:  Warforged have advantage on death saving throws.

Psionics: Reserved

Death: Upon death, the spirit of a Warforged travels to the Realm of the Dead. They may not be Raised or Resurrected, only True Resurrection (and Revivify) works – which returns them to a human body. The same is true for Reincarnation.

Categories: Campaign Development, Game Design, House Rules | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Session #10 – Cragmaw Castle (Part 1)

We finally picked up the game again after having to skip a session due to multiple and various illnesses – and the campaign really saw some interesting developments. Unlike the previous session, which saw the party encounter some wandering Hill Trolls (and doing an amazing job of killing them), the continued trip to Cragmaw Castle (now revealed after some reflection by the various party members to be the Citadel of Seven Towers, an ancient ruin dating back to the White Empire) saw little in the way of events – save one.

While on watch one night, Gwyneth (and her alone) found herself “caught outside of time” and facing a knight clad in somewhat antique, ornate grey armor. The knight challenged, she accepted, and the two faced off – fighting dearly for a handful of exchanges until Gwyneth, close to death, managed to strike the final blow only to have the knight disappear into mist – and leaving her with the Blessing of the Cold Flame.

The next morning there was some discussion of this event as Gwyneth revealed what had occurred, but given that nothing much could be done or investigated, the party pressed on to Cragmaw Castle – carefully following the gnomes, Fonkin and Wren, along with Rhys as they scouted along ahead, looking for ambushes. Finding none, the party eventually came upon the lair of the Cragmaw goblins…

And, with the keen-eyed gnomes and half-elf scouting, promptly found a hidden entrance though the north side of the ruins. Working carefully, the party entered and slowly scouted out the center section of the lair – until Rhys “discovered” another pit while Fonkin and Wren avoided the collapsing floor. The sound of crashing rock (and swearing Rhys) alerted nearby goblins who quickly attacked the party from a variety of directions.

Fundamentally the party made short work of the goblins, with a minimum of wounds taken in return. After a short pause when there were no more goblin attacks, Gwyneth, Jarvic, Ilda, and Fonkin took a rope down to investigate the oubliette that Rhys had found himself in. It was an unexpected and eerie chamber – circular with layers of writing on the walls and the huddled scrap of rags that remained of the former occupant.

Obscuring a deeper level was a grate in the center of the floor made of woven bands of cold iron, silver, and orikalkium – all inscribed with runes that the meaning of which could not be determined in the time that was spent there. Floating in midair at the cardinal points, connected to the floor in a similar manner, were four great crystals filled with Wind, Flame, Sea, and Stone and as the party attempted to understand what they had found there was a great blast of radiance and silent thunderous winds as a cloaked and shrouded female figure manifested, floating above the grate.

The party stood revealed, in the radiance that shone forth from the figure – Jarvic with the sigils and aspect of his status as a Dorje of the Great Dragon of the Air, Gwyneth with sorcerous runes and a nimbus of grey flame, Fonkin overshadowed by his Archfey Patron, the Prince of Fools, and Rhys with eldritch runes and a nimbus of grey flame that was striking similar to Gwyneths – of the group it was only Ilda who betrayed no higher allegiance, merely the runics notes of a bard floating about her.

Speaking to Jarvic, the entity (most likely the “Maiden of Storms” – a known servant and ally of the Great Dragon of the Air as well as a member of the Celestial Court) warned him directly of a coming “Age of Worms” and instructed him to seek the “Whispering Cairn” in order to stave off this threat. Disappearing, the Maiden of Storms left the group, reeling in her absence, trying to decide what to do.

And that’s where we left it – with the party having just returned to the room above and all coming together.



Categories: Campaign, Game Play | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Ok, this is an experience system that works ok…

After examining Alexis’ system (as mentioned last post) and crunching some numbers in 5e I have a surprising conclusion. I actually have to reduce the XP award to bring it from a 1e based game and into the realm of 5e.

I was originally thinking that I might have to boost the award for the “big creatures” but based on Deva (CR10) and a Solar (CR20) the XP reward based on damage dealt and damage received (plus bonuses for defeating the creature and total party damage, both to be split evenly across characters) the 10XP/20XP award came to just over double the CR10 XP for the Deva and just under triple the CR20 XP for the Solar.

So, I’m cutting the awards in half – which also make the awards for low CR creatures less egregiously high compared to their nominal CR XP value. Characters get 5XP per point of damage that they deal in combat (spell-casters get the “best ” result from area effect spells, but not XP for every creature damaged), and then if the party defeats the creature there is a bonus split amongst the participating characters equal to 5XP per HP of the creature. Similarly, characters gain 10XP per point of damage that they take, and at the end of combat the total damage that the party has taken is totaled and multiplied by 10XP with all the characters who participated in the combat splitting that total as well.

Yes, this generally awards more experience than normal for 5e system. But it has the benefit that it is more closely tied to character risk and actually experience. Quick fights where the players outclass a target or mob it with little damage to themselves result in less experience while fights where characters are brought near death (even when fighting “little monsters”) while slaying mobs of creatures result in more experience. It also closely links character XP  to character behavior – while still providing a group bonus for those characters who hang back. Characters which prefer to play support and avoid getting “skin in the game” still advance, but slower than those who are “stuck in” while hitting and getting hit.

And, frankly, I don’t care if the players are advancing “quicker” than normal 5e – I’m confident of my ability to give my players a good game, and I tend to load my games with “lower CR” creatures in 5e terms. I’m guessing that, looking at the XP tables, characters will naturally slow down a bit around 5th or 6th level unless they start seeking out “higher CR” creatures – and in my game those are pretty nasty in combat. I’d expect to start seeing characters dropping if that was the plan.

In normal 5e I have to start “stocking the dungeons” with higher and higher CR creatures to building those “average adventuring day” encounters. Now, I just have to make encounters that make sense in terms of Gygaxian Naturalism, trust that I can run them in an enjoyable way, and let the players decide what an “average adventuring day” looks like.

Plus, I can run NPC’s with character classes as opponents now and don’t have to try and figure out what their CR is!



Categories: Game Design, House Rules | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Experience, CR, and the whole unholy mess…

I just want to say that I hate the whole CR and Monster Creation process in 5e again.

So I’ve been thinking about alternates.

On the one hand I could probably come up with some sort of analogy for the 1E system. The biggest issue is that there is not a linear progression either from CR0 to CR30 creatures, or even from CR0 to CR24 creatures (which is where the ancient red and gold dragons sit). That has the ubiquity of being something I’m familiar with and I just need to work so the XP for a monster is roughly the same in either game.

The problem with that is that I’ve already been burned by the 1e system before. I do still like the utter and complete simplicity of Alexis’ XP system, but then I run into the problem that 1e also grants XP for treasure and in 5e XP only comes from defeating monsters. His game runs roughly 40% XP for creatures and 60% XP for treasure, so I’d need to double the gains for it to balance out (assuming I wanted to balance things per his campaign style). Plus, XP in general is inflated from 1e numbers and the XP needed to level is greatly reduced. I haven’t done any number crunching yet in 5e terms, but I suspect that the balance would be off even if I did something like tie ??xp per HP of the creature (so that the party got bonus XP for the monster in the same way ).

Alternately, I would just accept that the XP system gets inverted a bit – just as Alexis was trying to address. I think the real place to address things is to grant some sort of XP reward for inflicting Conditions being that they are essentially “quasi-damage” in many respects. This would also solve the problem of “combat effective but not damage producing spells” – how do we reward that?

Now, yes, this system would speed up the already ramped up advancement of the lower levels in 5e and have slowed down advancement at higher levels – maybe… Those humanoid minions are actually “worth something” now in the greater XP picture – a lot of something.

It is so gosh darn simple…





Categories: Game Design, House Rules | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

First new official rules for 5e – and they are free!

So, I “picked up” the free PDF of the Elemental Evil Player’s Companion and on the one hand I like it a fair amount and on the other hand I’m kind of disappointed. The new races are fine, though the Genasai are very different in my game world, and I’ve never used the Snervnebblinglinelfnanfa….. whatever they are, Deep Gnomes – and while I’ve never used the …bird people… as a race in my game world, I can see them having a place (I have other flying races that have played a much more significant role – Winged Folk anyone?). I certainly never had the Goliath’s, but I actually like them – just not sure about that damage reduction ability (it seems very fiddly to me).

The meat is the new spells, especially the new cantrips and the Investitures. I’m very happy with everything I’ve seen there and will actually be updating a couple of bits here and there on other races abilities to reflect these new cantrips.

My big disappointment is the lack of character class options – specifically the lack of Cleric domains and Wizard schools with an elemental focus. The Monk could also have seen some love here, along with the Sorcerer and the Warlock, but there was no love to be had for anyone.

So sad.

In any case that just means that I need to belly up to the bar and come up with my own Cleric domains for the En Khoda Theos Kirk (given that I have a cleric of the Great Dragon of the Air in the game now), and start thinking about how I would handle the Wizard’s Arcane Tradition (and a Warlock Patron and a Sorcerer bloodline).

That said, I’m really looking forward to gaming this week after recovering from the plague last session and it ending up being cancelled.



Categories: Campaign Development, Game Design, House Rules | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Which Imperium is Lost?

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time thinking about ProtoTraveller, as well as my idea of the “Lost Imperium” setting actually being a Traveler game rather than a Dark Heresy game. Another interesting spin that combines that idea with the canon Traveller universe would be a similar  “trip over a Ancient’s trapdoor” during either the Civil War or the Psionic Suppressions.

It doesn’t quite answer the question though – an full-sized WH40K Expeditionary Fleet of the Great Crusade had enough people to found a empire. Whatever it is that meant to escaped from the Traveller universe wouldn’t be nearly so big (ok, I suppose I could posit some other weird Jump Space effect hat simply captures a bunch of ships all at one time or something).

Just something I ponder while I wait for the D&D 5e game to come about!


Categories: Campaign Development, Game Design | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at