Game Play

Casting spells and wearing armor (5e)

So, as I go through the list of things that I like about 5e as compared to 1e, and things I like much, much better in 1e the whole concept of wearing armor and casting spells comes up. In 5e, this is simply a matter of proficiency – if you are proficient in the armor, then it doesn’t interfere in your spell-casting. Now, in 1e spell-casting and armor was severely limited and was one of the great balancers for non-human races, fundamentally for Arcane Magic.

Now, truthfully, there are all sorts of different flavors of Arcane Magic now (and we’ll ignore my “historical game” switched all sorts of things up, like Druids using Arcane Magic, blah, blah, blah…) but, in the quest to nerf the idea of level-dipping, and continue to add back at least some of the verisimilitude that made my campaign world make sense…

Divine Magic has no inherent limits on armor (just like 1e), it is simply a matter of the armor training you get from your class. A character Deity is happy to pump divine energy into you, whatever you’re wearing, as long as you’re doing “the right stuff”!

Arcane Magic is where it gets wonky…

Wizards, Eldritch Knights, Arcane Tricksters, and Sorcerers may only wear only wear Ultralight Armor.

Bards and Warlocks may wear Ultralight and Light Armor.

Elves, High Men, Half-Elves, Sh’dai, Dwarrow, the Old Race, and Gnomes (this could expand as additional races are detailed) may wear non-metallic Light and Medium Armor and cast Arcane Magic, they may also wear enchanted metallic armor of the same types.

This gets us back to the image of locking wizards into specially-made suits of armor as a way to neutralize them without having to cut their tongues out or cut off their fingers and hands… It’s also the reason why these races are likely to get targeted first by tactically knowledgeable opponents, they are going to be assumed to be spell-casters, no matter what they actually are, and are perceived as mysterious, dangerous, and the most significant threat sans any more obvious target.

D.

 

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Death and the Player Character (5E DnD)

So, as I study for the EPPP, part of my brain recovery (or cushioning more likely) has been watching Matthew Colville’s Running the Game series and the odd video or three from Web DM. I strongly recommend both sets of videos, for a variety of reasons – you can decide on your own. Now, that said, this has more to do with the recent release of Matt Mercer’s Resurrection rules from Critical Whatever. I don’t watch it, but the rules came across my feed.

It force me to think about this in my game, as well as reflecting on some of the differences between 1E and 5E. In the old 1E games, things were much more lethal, and characters were a bit more careful as result. In 5E, healing is much more available, dying is much harder (mechanically), and there are none of the limitations or costs on Raising that previously existed (System Shocks, Con loss, racial limitations). We are finally at the level where Raise Dead is available (or will be soon) and while I like the idea of Matt Mercer’s rules they are just way to fiddly in some ways. 5E DnD has done a lot to get rid of fiddly in some ways and his rules actually seem more fiddly than 1E AD&D was.

I’ve also been thinking about simply how easy it is to bring back people from death or it’s brink in 5E. I like this flavor to tell the truth, but the Gentle Repose and Revivify combo is a, um, “killer” on top of the normal magical curing, healing kits, and Spare the Dying cantrip. It is really pretty darn hard to die and they’ve made it pretty darn easy to come back from it…

Perhaps too easy for my evolved campaign setting.

Now, one suggestion is to make diamonds (the material component for Revivify, Raise Dead, Resurrection, and True Resurrection) much less common and very difficult to find. Truthfully, I already know exactly had rare they are and they already aren’t that common. But I also don’t exactly mind Revivify given the time limitations involved. I do miss the System Shock rolls of the old Raise Dead spells, as well as the racial limitations – these are huge social and cultural limiting factors in my campaign.

Note, this is also all in my search to re-humanize my world a bit. It is intended to be humanocentric world, and there is no mechanical reason for this in 5E unlike the reasons why this would be in 1E.

So, normal rules of dealing with near death still apply. Dropping to 0HP is just like the rules. Healing from that works as normal and Revivify works as normal. A Saving Throw on the part of the character being brought back from death is required for Gentle Repose + Revivify, Raise Dead, and Resurrection. There is no Saving Throw needed for True Resurrection or Reincarnate. For purposes of effects, any time you are Revivified outside of the base timing of the spell because of some other spell or magic item in the mix, you need to make the Ability Check.

The ability that the Ability Check is rolled on is chosen by the player of the character being brought back as long as they can justify it. The Ability Check is Medium (15), using Bywater-grade diamonds (basically industrial quality) incurs Disadvantage, while 1st Water diamonds grant Advantage. For what it is worth, Bywater is pretty much all that is available in Towns (and probably only enough for one casting of Revivify) while 2nd and 3rd Water are available Cities, and 1st Water diamonds are generally only available (at normal price) in Great Cities.

Things that normally affect Ability Checks will also affect this one – meaning that a group of companions pleading with their deities, cleansing the area spiritually, calling out psychically to help the spirit find it’s way to the body, whatever, can potentially help this roll (see p175 “Working Together” in the Player’s Handbook).

Jewelry with an appropriately-sized diamond in it is very “fashionable” for many adventurers and usually able to be found in most cities.

In the realm of verisimilitude and Gygaxian Naturalism, these sorts of spells also incurs a significant bit of interest in a divine caster’s deity, even if unconscious. So bringing character back from death that do not worship the same deity, are of significant different alignments, etc., etc., etc. can have significant repercussions for everyone involved. Geasa, religious conversion, spell refusal/failure, and the like are all possible and should be expected. This is beyond how some cultures and races view and deal with death. For example, Dwarves can be Raised, but culturally are loath to come back and see it as a curse rather than a blessing. There is also, invariably, some other cost to coming back from the dead – ability score penalty, insanity, whatever. It really depends upon the situation and context – hacked to death by swords is a bit more traumatic than a quiet backstab that killed someone instantly, but assume that dying is troubling to the emotional well-being of a character and even their spiritual health.

I’m slowly updating the write-ups of the character races with their relationship with death.

TTFN!

D.

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A Letter to Frater Nikolai

Nikolai,

I trust this letter finds you well and that you have found what you needed during your time spent in contemplation. I wish that I could say that that I am sorry to be writing you, and in one way I am for I would not bother you unless there was the direst need for both your dedication and your skills. At the same time, I must admit that I happy that you will be actively bringing the Light to the world once again.

A situation in the Kingdom of Llyr has come up that requires your special insights as I am sure the following letter will explain.

You may have heard, even in your isolation of the young Lord Devin Tresendar? Well, the rumors are true, he is Touched by the Lord Sc. Michael and has been blessed with a series of miracles as he brings Light in Darkness. He and his companions have even travelled to the Shadowlands in the pursuit of a series of threads regarding a prophecy of an upcoming Age of Worms – I have arranged to have more details gathered and awaiting for you upon your arrival and this is perhaps the greatest reason for choosing you to attend to this matter.

Fighting against the Vanguard of Sertrous which seeks to bring about this coming Age, Tresendar confronted them and thwarted their plan to summon forth their long-dead commander. If this was not miracle enough he recovered the great sword Merthuvial, the Kingmaker, and confirmed as its rightful wielder.

Returning home, it became become apparent that there is old rot within the lands of his family and Tresendar discovered a cult deeply entrenched in fabric of Diamond Lake, a prominent mining town of the kingdom, and one that was part of his family lands for generations – though mismanagement and misfortune had passed control to the Consortium in his grandfather’s time. Investigating and striking quickly, Tresendar and his companions discovered a long buried fane – one older than anything that you can imagine or even guess.

Our aid was requested by Tresendar to deal with the guardianship of the fane, so I have arranged for a company of troops to be at your disposal, under your good Watch and Judgement. I also think that Lord Tresendar would benefit from some advice and counsel, as well as he has done so far he is surrounded by a curious set of companions – please see the attached letter for details.

But, the Community of the town has not only lost its leader, it has seemingly lost its way as well. The former Lightbringer of the town, one Jierian Wierus, was a fanatic and by all reports unhinged. Perhaps it was the dire influence of the cult or the close proximity of the fane, or perhaps he was simply weak, but in any case he has left the community there in dire straits with his death in the fane. While many in the town are of the Faith, the recent events have shaken them and it is important that they know that the Church has not forgotten them.

Also, given the chaos involved in the discovery of the cult, the entire leadership of the town itself is uncertain. I have dispatched this letter before word has come from the King as to how he is handling the disposal of the town.

I will commit no more to paper on this subject my friend. You must witness it for yourself. Grace in Light, Strength in Darkness.

 

Sancta Loren

The Most Reverend Gregorius Sc. Thiede, by the Lords of Light and Proclamation of the Sarim under the Lord Sc. Metatron, Lord High Archon and Primate of the Rite of the Congregation of Loren.

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Pushing Rolls in 7E

So I was listening to the Chaosium Call of Cthulhu panel from GenCon and they had a really interesting insight into the “pushing rolls” mechanic from 7E.

Mechanically, for non-combat rolls only, players have the option to “push a roll” when they fail the initial attempt. The player has to justify how they either continue the first attempt or get a second try, but the penalty is that if the pushed attempt fails then something bad happens.

The panel pointed out that the “something bad” was a method to “increase the horror” not merely inflict a failure or a fumble.

I really like this as it actually makes it even easier to understand the mechanic, and gives me (the Keeper) an easier tool to make this specific to individual Investigators.

D.

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What’s happening!?!

So, we are on a bit of a break from the D&D 5e Siyahchal Campaign, the characters have liberated the town of Diamond Lake from it’s corrupt mayor and the worst of the mine owners as part of the process of dealing with the Cult of the Ebon Triad. Devin has been installed as a Baronet with responsibility for the town and much of the surrounding area. We’ll pick things up again in a couple of months “real-time” and a year or two “game time” when the stars shift again, threatening an Age of Worms…

In the meantime we are playing Call of Cthulhu 7e, and Pulp Cthulhu at that. One player is taking a break (Cthulhu really not being her thing) but everyone else jumped at the idea of this system. I’m setting the game in Chicago, starting it in 1920, and continuing on somewhat from where I left the small campaign set in wartime Paris that I was playing with MR and KT. I’ve combined the classic Haunting scenario and the more recent Edge of Darkness scenario into one larger, interlinked narrative.

We’ve played one session and everyone seemed to have fun, I’ll do what I can to keep people abreast with what is happening. You can follow thin links above and see what characters people have, and while I have modified the traits for Pulp Cthulhu somewhat (and I’ll post my changes here in the next week or so), the “double hit points” and extra rules for luck makes a good start to a more survivable game.

TTFN!

D.

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As a bit of a place-marker…

When I’m floating a new campaign, especially a new system, I like to be able to reference movies or TV shows for the players so that can get at least some sense of what I’m thinking about. That being the case for my current gaming group, here’s what the primary visual media that I’d watch to get a flavor of the game…

For a Traveller game:

Jupiter Ascending, Battlestar Galactica (SyFy TV Show), Firefly (TV Show) and Serenity, The Expanse (TV Show), Sharpe’s Rifles (TV Show), Avatar, The Fifth Element, the Chronicles of Riddick, Babylon 5 and associated media (TV Show), Dune and Children of Dune (SyFy Series), and the original Star Wars trilogy some elements of Star Trek.

For a Cyberpunk 2020 game it would be:

Bladerunner, the Alien movies, the Predator movies, Escape From New York/LA, Soldier, Stargate, the Andromeda Strain, Outland, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Handmaid’s Tale, Equilibrium, the Matrix series, Max Payne, Dredd, Children of Men, the Terminator series (Film and TV), the Resident Evil series, Ultraviolet, Lucy, La Femme Nikita (Film and TV Show), Sleeping Beauty, Tron and Tron:Legacy, Minority Report, A Clockwork Orange,

For a Call of Cthulhu game:

John Carpenter’s The Thing, The Dunwich Horror, From Beyond, The Unnamable, the Reanimator series, The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, The Wolfman (2010), Penny Dreadful (Showtime series), Brotherhood of the WolfSalem’s Lot, The Keep, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Martyrs, We Are What We Are, the Indiana Jones films, The Witch, Crimson Peak, Angelheart, Dagon, Starry Eyes, The Exorcist, The Howling, American Werewolf In London, Angelheart, The Fog, The Changeling, Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining,

A more modern Delta Green game would also include:

Crimson Rivers and Crimson Rivers: Angels of the Apocalypse, Threshhold (TV Show), the Blade series, Altered States, X-Files (TV Show), Hannibal (TV Show), Jekyll (TV Show), the Bourne series, True Detective (1st Season HBO), The Wicker Man, The Omen, the Hellraiser series, Blair Witch Project, The Ring, the Hostel series, 8mm, The Objective, Apocalypse Now, It Follows, [Rec],

And finally, the “Modern Occult” game (used to be Mage, now probably Witchcraft) would include the above but also be slanted towards:

Dresden Files (TV Show), Person of Interest (TV Show), The Magicians (TV Show), The Last Witch Hunter, the Hellboy movies, Pan’s Labyrinth, Byzantium, 30 Days of Night, Let The Right One In, Supernatural (TV Series), Ginger Snaps, Cat People,

I am certain that I have missed a whole series of films or TV shows, but this was a quick and dirty “off the top of my head” listing of things. I suppose I’ll update things as I remember or come across them.D.

 

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Lol, missing Game Logs…

So, well, yes, clearly I haven’t written up a Game Log in forever…

I keep meaning to, but I keep failing miserably and then keep falling behind. We just finished the 29th session of the current campaign I think I need to grant a very broad overview of what has happened.

The party managed to survive the Shadowlands mostly unscarred – though the gnomes were hit hard. Fonkin was brought to the brink of death by the strange magics and creatures of the Shadowlands and transformed into a Shade while his henchman and cousin  Wren died. From the cold lands of Shadow the party followed another gate to the sweltering heat of the Jungles of Ith, where they found gates home but were also able to return quickly enough to thwart the Vanguard and prevent the Reborn King from fully manifesting. In the process Ilda was almost lost (but managed to invoke her Ancestors successfully) and Rhys went missing though divinations suggest that he is not dead.

After all of this the party took a much needed break, resting up after their travails and travels – and capitalizing on the tales of their adventures, strange dress, and potent magic. This included Dorje Jarvic travelling off to train as a Warrior Monk and Lord Devon and his wife finally starting to rebuild the Tresendar hunting lodge in Phandalin. In turn, Ilda was given a series of visions as to the location of Wave Echo Cave by her Ancestors and the party decided to investigate – especially given their early failures with the Rockseeker brothers as well as their concern over the “Forge of Spells” falling into the wrong hands. There they found another group of adventurers, with legal documents asserting their right to explore the cave, and they were shocked when Dhagri was seemingly convinced to join the other group by a powerful Khazan after they had retreated to Diamond Lake

Doing their best to readjust after the loss the party added a couple of new members (despite some misgivings on some folks parts). And under the prompting of the strange tome of Misset al’Namat, they party sought out the Whispering Cairn that they had heard about during their earlier visit to Diamond Lake. Currently deep inside, they think they may have found the entrance to the true tomb of one of long lost Wind Dukes.

So, all in all, the group completed the modules Barrow of the Forgotten King (2nd level characters), The Sinister Spire (5th level characters), and Fortress of the Yuan-Ti (7th level characters). They have mostly completed the starter module Lost Mine of Phandelver (1st-5th characters), and have made excellent inroads into the first installment of the Age of Worms adventure path, The Whispering Cairn (1st-3rd level characters).

This has the brought the core of the group into solidly 7th to 8th level, though there are also a smattering of lower level characters. We’re still liking 5e (clearly) though we switched to non-XP advancement awhile back and transitioned to achievement/story based leveling. It actually seems like a better fit for the system. I’m still underwhelmed with the 5e sensibilities when it comes to magic item placement – so I’m happily ignoring it. The party is also clearly coming into their own, power-wise – preventing the Reborn King showed just how powerful they were. They also, in this latest scrape with the other group of adventurers in Wave Echo Cave, learned what it was like to be on the receiving end of a couple of powerful spell-casters backed by a powerful warrior.

TTFN!

D.

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Combat Notes in Brief

So in the process of trying to figure out item saving throws and looking at mundane healing I also spent a fair amount time reviewing the combat rules. I have to say that they hold together pretty well, but having run the game for a while now, with a significant number of combats under my belt as a DM, the review also revealed some interesting bits and bobs that hadn’t really gelled for me yet.

Dexterity Modifiers for Armor

Ok, so while I think that these limitations make little or no sense based on real-world armor, nor do I think they significantly impact combat, I do think that these limitations are an excellent way to model the bonuses that magical or high-quality, bespoke armor can grant those who are lucky enough to own some.

The one tweak is that I see it as a -3 for Medium Armor and a -5 for Heavy Armor, but that it cannot create a negative penalty unless the creature wearing  already has a negative Dexterity modifier. l this means is that higher Dexterity creatures are rewarded rather than penalized for having that higher Dexterity.

Being Encumbered means that no Dexterity modifier is available.

Stacking Advantage and Disadvantage

I think everyone is aware of this, but in case they are not, I allow Advantage and Disadvantage to stack. Only if Advantage and Disadvantage are equal do they cancel out, otherwise if a creature has more of one or the other then they benefit or suffer as normal.

Surprise and Complete Surprise

In 5e being Surprised means that you can’t Move and can’t take an Action in the first round of combat, you may take a single Reaction at the end of the round. But you still get your Dexterity bonus to AC and you still have the essentially normal chances for Perception as you would when unsurprised. This seems somewhat unrealistic in that nobody is ever caught “flat-footed” or is otherwise completely gobsmacked when “things go down.”

So I’m adding in a “Complete Surprise” – which happens if you Fumble your Perception check or fail it by 5+ points. This simply means that you get no Dexterity bonus to your AC for that round and have Disadvantage on any further Perception that are made in that initial round.

Just to be clear, after being either Surprised or Completely Surprised for one round, everyone goes to Normal Mode for the rest of the combat – though they might be Surprised or Completely Surprised by specific opponents later in combat due to circumstances.

Combat Actions

First off, in Combat, you get one of ten actions – that’s it. These are:

  1. Attack a creature, object, or location.
  2. Cast a Spell
  3. Dash (Double Movement)
  4. Disengage (Leave combat and use movement without provoking an Opportunity Attack).
  5. Dodge (All attacks against you until your next turn have Disadvantage, plus you have Advantage on Dexterity Saves.
  6. Help (An Ally gains Advantage on their next Action as long as it occurs before your next turn)
  7. Hide
  8. Ready (Prepare a specific Action in the event of a specific triggering event)
  9. Search (Trying to discern something rather than simply noticing the relatively obvious)
  10. Use an Object

There are a selection of optional ones from the DMG (pp 271-2), I’m including five of them because they makes sense:

  1. Climb On (a larger creature)
    1. Str or Dex Chack (Attacker) vs. Dex check (Defender)
  2. Disarm (Attack roll vs Str(Athletic)/Dex(Acrobatics) check to knock weapon from hand)
    1. Disadvantage for attacker if Defender is using a Two-Handed Weapon
    2. Advantage or Disadvantage for Defender if they are Larger or Smaller than attacker
  3. Overrun (Str vs. Str check to move through opponent’s space Movement)
    1. Attacker has Advantage if larger than the defender, Disadvantage if smaller.
  4. Shove (Str vs. Str check to push opponent one side during Movement, attacker has Disadvantage)
  5. Tumble (Dex vs. Dex check to move through opponent’s space during Movement)

These have a selection of Advantage/Disadvantage conditions depending upon circumstances.

There is some limited free interaction with objects that occurs, but that’s really prefatory to either Attack, Cast a Spell, or Use and Object. So you can draw a weapon for free, in order to attack (and that’s specifically only one weapon), or you can pull a potion out in order to drink it (for the Use an Object action), or even hand an object to another character (who would use same free action to take it).

So, noticing that there is Black Goblin with a bunch of Goblins? Probably not even a Perception check, but trying to figure out which Goblin is the leader? That’s a Search Action. Trying to discern which of the fully armored opponents is a khazan rather than a human? Search Action.

Equipment and Damage

Don’t want the bad guy top drink the potion he’s holding? You could Attack the potion bottle instead of him and hope to destroy it. This is an interesting point because Objects have pretty crummy Hit Points and usually a relatively low Armor Class – if you are trying to destroy stuff in 5e it is relatively easy. Magical items are harder to destroy because they are Resistant to all damage at the very least.

Also, Objects are automatically Immune to Psychic and Poison damage and may have any combination of Resistance, Immunity, or Vulnerability depending upon the Damage Type and the Object in question.

And, before anyone asks, weapon or armor counts as an Object and can be targeted. The nominal rule is that Armor has HP equal to its AC (plus any Dexterity bonus the character might have), while weapons have HP equal to their maximum damage. Armor and weapons are also Resistant to weapon damage (natural or otherwise). This means that they effectively have double HP against weapons and are very hard to damage or destroy in the middle of combat. It might make more sense to try and Disarm them (q.v.).

Also, there is a small list of spells that, if a character fails their save against, also force all equipment carried to save or be destroyed. Magical items always have Advantage, and if they have a bonus this is also added to their save. They may also simply be Immune to some forms of damage depending upon their specific enchantments.

Acid Splash, Blade Barrier, Call Lightning, Chain Lightning, Cone of Cold, Delayed Blast Fireball, Destructive Wave, Earthquake, Erupting Earth, Fireball, Fire Storm, Flaming Sphere, Flame Strike, Glyph of Warding, Ice Storm, Immolation, Incendiary Cloud, Lightning Arrow, Lightning Bolt, Meteor Swarm, Otiluke’s Freezing Sphere, Prismatic Spray, Prismatic Sphere, Shatter, Storm of Vengeance, Vitriolic Sphere, Wall of Fire, Wall of Ice, Whirlwind

This is the list of spells from the Player’s Handbook, plus the Elemental Evil Player’s Companion. Spells from other supplements may also have this effect.

Initiative

I’ve tried to use the 5e standard to roll one Initiative at the beginning of combat and I have to conclude that I’m not a fan. So henceforth we’ll be doing Initiative every round. Also, while I said all along that I was going to use Speed Factors for Initiative I certainly have not been enforcing them (because it doesn’t work with the single Initiative system). The system is very simple – Initiative is modified depending on what weapon you are using in combat and essentially how encumbered you are with armor or gear.

Weapons and Armor list their penalty or bonus (primary weapon only), and if the character is Lightly Encumbered, they have a -5 to their Initiative Roll, and if they are greatly Encumbered their Initiative roll has Disadvantage (plus a -5 to the final roll). A character wearing no armor at all has a bonus of +2 on Initiative.

Otherwise, the only other normal modifier is that spell-casters subtract the level of the spell they are casting from their Initiative.

The lowest you can go is in “1”

It is worth mentioning that, rather like in 1e, there does seem to be a timing issue that we can call “Pre-Rounds” and “Post-Rounds” for lack of anything better. These are basically the result of magic when “the user/recipient acts first in the round” or “goes last” – this hasn’t been an issue so far and I don’t expect it to be much of one in the future. Weapons with the “Slow” quality attack in Post-Rounds

In effect this is what a Surprise attack that kicks off a Combat Round is – a PreRound Attack. To be clear, Pre-Round and Post-Round Actions are part of the same Action economy (Movement plus 1 Action, 1 potential Bonus Action, and 1 potential Reaction), they simply occupy a special place in the Combat Round turn sequence.

Facing and Flanking

It has also been pointed out to me that while the “Theatre of the Mind” may be speeding up combat in some ways, it is also making it difficult for some players to have the same sense of locations that I have, as well as gauge area-of-effect, range, etc.

So, first off, I’m going to go back to using a Battlemat for the larger combats. It lets everyone track where they are and while it will slow things down in some ways the message I’m getting is that it speed things up in others – as well as prevent some frustration.

This will also make it easier to implement the Flanking and Facing rules.

Flanking is simply that when two allied creatures engage an opponent on both side arcs, they both gain Advantage on Attacks.

Facing addresses the fact that attackers in the rear arc gain Advantage on Attacks against that opponent because they are nominally unseen. This would also make the Hide action easier, if that were a desired Action rather than an Attack.

Also, Shields (or similar Objects or Effects) are only effective against opponents in the Defenders front arc, and the side arc that matches the shields location.

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Multiclassing

So I promised one of my players a short discussion on multiclassing in 5e, along with some guidelines into what is involved in doing so. First, one of the things I like about 5e is that the combination of race, class, and archtype fundamentally removes some of the reasons for multiclassing that were found in 1e. You can play a roguish spell-casting warrior half-elf, or a dwarven soldier-priest, or a elven mage who wields a puissant longsword pretty easily just with the basic game mechanics. Add in feats and this only increases the ability to tweak the flavor of a character pretty easily.

But multiclassing goes one step further, so that you get the class features of two classes, though you don’t get the starting skills of the subsequent classes and weapons and armor skills may or may not be restricted. Mechanically it is also more like 1e “dual-classing” which used to be restricted to humans only, but is now available to everyone unlike the old 1e multiclassing which was simultaneous advancement across two or three classes.. It is a clearly stated optional feature available at the discretion of the Dungeon Master, but I see no problem in allowing it per se, just with how it gets presented a bit in Players Handbook.

In 5e, as long as you can some very basic statistic requirements (which are not even as high as they were in 1e) the implication is that you simply get to decide upon making a new level, if you want to take the level in your current class or if you want to take it a new class. Yes, there is some flavor text about “hanging out with the new class lately” but the implication is that this is an relatively off-the-cuff decision on the player/characters part.

That… I don’t exactly agree with.

I certainly agree that some of character classes are pretty simple to switch into – especially in the 5e with the use of skills as opposed to many things being inherent to a character class. So, you want to switch over to Fighter or Rogue? Those are, in my mind, probably the only two classes that have no requirements other than the basic ones mentioned in the Players Handbook for doing so. They both represent relatively basic skill sets at 1st level, that are then refined and developed.

After this however, the classes all have some particular focus or inherent skill set that required varying levels or dedication or training to even get to first level (and that’s before we even address the whole 5e idea that character classes are fundamentally special and unique beyond the ken even many NPC’s – which is horseshit in my opinion, btw). The next easiest is probably the Warlock – all you need to do is make a Pact, and you’re a Warlock. So if you want to roleplay out getting a Patron, becoming a Warlock is pretty easy.

Sorcerer’s are a similar case – they simply need a good reason why a new “inborn” magical ability manifests. This isn’t a freebee in my campaign, but if someone really wants to play a sorcerer I have no problem in figuring something out. This might require some roleplaying, ok, probably it will, but explaining away suddenly becoming a Sorcerer is relatively easy in the grand scheme of things. Objectively this class is arguably the “hardest” to switch to because it is supposedly fundamental aspects or inborn traits of the characters, but gaming logic and character experience usually provide ample fodder for such things manifesting. Case in point, Fonkin’s new level is in Sorcerer, and he had to take the new Shadowed Bloodline – but this makes perfect sense given what happened to the character.

Next up are Clerics, Druids, and Paladins. All a character fundamentally needs is a genuine connection to Deity and a Calling  and they have the most important thing (that they really can’t be without). Now, that said, most Callings involve training through a religious institution (the Church of the Lords of Light, the Druidic Orders, the En Khoda Theos Kirk, etc) so that you are recognized clergy as opposed to a wild-eyed (potential) heretic – plus so that you can actually do a good job of being clergy.

At some point I suppose I could rant about the training involved in Master’s level programs vs. Doctoral-level programs Divinity schools in the real world. But suffice to say that there is more to being clergy than an initiation… The end result is that, with rare exceptions, if you want to multiclass as a Cleric, Druid, or Paladin, you need to spend some time studying at seminary or the equivalent, probably between six months and a year. This is more than simply Downtime Activities, and probably requires taking some time away from adventuring – unless you’ve been role-playing the heck out of this and been using your Downtime Activities for this purpose. Also be prepared for some very close attention being paid to you by your mentors and superiors in “the Church” as they try to make sure you don’t screw too much up as you figure out this new vocation.

Barbarians, Bards, and Rangers are the next tier, but for somewhat different reasons. Barbarians have to tap into their rage, Bards have a fair amount of study and learning(both mundane and magical), and Rangers have a deep connection to land plus some magical study. None of this comes easy, and the class features and flavor text all imply something that needs to be nurtured over the course of time via study and practice. Sure, with the right Background (much like with Cleric, Druid, and Paladin) some of this can be shortcut, but sans any divine act, you simply don’t just develop a Bard’s music skills, or a Ranger’s favored terrain, or even a Barbarian’s ability to focus their rage effectively. Again, we’re probably talking six months to a year of work on the characters part, in addition to Downtime Activities. I’m also likely to demand that you choose what your Totem, College, or Archtype will be “up front” so that the role-playing reflects that eventual focus on the characters part – it may not be graven in stone, but people need something fundamental to switch their class to one of these as opposed to simply picking up the right feats or skills.

Lastly  we have Monks and Wizards, both of whom are classes which are explicitly described as requiring years of disciplined study to even get to first level. You need to find someone to train you, you need to do the training, and the training can’t be interrupted by lots of adventuring. In general, expect to be away from the adventuring party for at least a year of game time. Sure, there might be some “Downtime Adventuring” (and roleplaying) but these characters are engaged in their “disciplined study” even if it is highly shortened due to their heroic nature.

Depending upon the final rules on Mystics they could either be like Warlocks & Sorcerers or they could be like Monks & Wizards. If someone really wanted to play a Witch Hunter I think I would treat them similar to Priests, Druids, and Paladins, and if there is an Alchemist or Engineer class that ever comes out I would probably treat it like Monks & Wizards.

It is worth noting that some races and classes don’t mix well at all (Dwarves and Wizards for example) while some work very well together (Khazan and Barbarian, Gnome and Ranger, Dragonborn and Sorcerer, to mention three). This may make things easier or harder when justifying or explaining how the multiclassing works. Similarly, some classes don’t play well together (Cleric and Warlock immediately spring to mind) while others seem like a natural fit (Ranger and Druid) – again this can create significant impediments to multiclassing or smooth the way considerably.

Lastly, this is fantasy game, so with a good enough story almost anything can happen. Characters have gone to Faerie and come back dual-classed as a Wizard having spent seven years there while a winter passed in the Mortal Realms while another switched from Cleric to Druid after meeting Dannan, and another switched from Fighter to Paladin. Now, these stories came with complications (and good rule of thumb is that the more shortcuts, the more complications) but roleplay well or do the right quests and there is usually a way to make things happen.

TTFN!

D.

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

Intersession #18.5 – Through the Leygate (Fiction)

Stepping through the leygate was an exercise in willpower, the crackling, eldritch energies raced through one’s body and it was easy to believe that instead of translocating space your body was ripped apart and reassembled within the span of a flash of lightning. But the memory of that awful moment of being in two places at once thundered through the body for long moments as each member of the party stumblingly caught their breath, trying to make way for the next with limbs that moved numbly and awkwardly.

Rhys had been the first through, now he stood on the edge of the barren and ancient road the leygate had taken the party to. Eyes alert on the surroundings, his cloak already pulled up around his face to keep out the black and grey dust that was whipped up by the low wind that moaned across the ground and through the surrounding hills, Rhys absently scratched Lockheed’s head as the dragonet wrapped itself across his shoulders, staying close in the unfamiliar and alien terrain.

He’d been the first to investigate the low stone terrace that they all rested upon now, where the leygate had opened to. There were a pair of ancient stone plinths standing in the terrace, deeply graven with runes and sigils, the site of the leygate terminus. They were now cold and silent rather than alive with arcane energies. The leygate had closed scant minutes after the company had arrived, removing the only way to return to Kingshom that the party knew of – the first sign of things going horribly, horribly wrong. Rhys had also discovered the body lying in road in his sweep of the area, a human dressed in violet robes, filled with arrows and bitten about the face and shoulders by snakes. The twin sacks turned out beside the body had been similar to the ones the tomb-robbers had carried and had the remains of grave dirt and tomb dust, but the note in the corpse’s hand had been in no language he’d ever seen before.

After that had gone Dhagri. The young Khazan’s eyes had been big and bright as he passed through the leygate, uncomfortable with the unfamiliar and arcane nature of the travel. He paced around sniffing the bitter tang to air that was cool with the wind. Like Rhys, his eyes focused outwards at the bleak rocky hills, watching for danger, looking for a clue as to what to do next. As he unconsciously played with the wrappings of the hilt of his axe, his eyes drifted off to the distance where it seemed darker, like the coming of night, but it came no closer, grew no darker as Dhagri watched. Instead it seemed as if the Darkness waited, and watched him in turn, patient and silent and hungry as a grave.

Fonkin sat on a small rock, shivering in the shadowy twilight they had found themselves in. Gnomes were creatures of the surface world for all that they burrowed in the earth for its treasures, and too much time away from the fresh air and warming rays of the sun brought with a malaise for the Little People. One hand on the body of his cousin Wren that lay wrapped at his feet, Fonkin rocked gently and prayed quietly that they could revive him rather than leave him in such a desolate place. Reaching out to his Patron, the link felt hollow and weak, and he shuddered to think of himself left alone in the darkness here, still and lifeless, with no-one to remember him. The light of Faerie seemed very distant, fading the same as hope threatened to.

Even the knowledge that his Patron was pleased with him barely cheered him, for while the contents of the note had been revealed to him, the turned out bags beside the corpse meant that another task lay before them…

Fadheela,

I have been delayed. My servant carries the king’s bones and all the items of his champions that I could find. Merthúvial I cannot locate. I shall spend a bit more time it, but I am sending these on so our rendezvous is not compromised. Please give the Vanguard my regards. I shall be along shortly.

                                                                                                                -Xeron

Ilda’s eyes flickered over the party in turn, then to each of the corpses in turn, as well as toward the same Darkness as Dhagri’s eyes did – consciously or unconsciously everyone cast a glance in that direction regularly. Having pulled out the dulcimer from its’ storage place, the dwarf was calmed by checking to make sure that it had survived the recent combats unscathed. This place was like nothing the dwarf had ever encountered before, and the lays and lore tumbled through Ilda’s head trying to figure out where they were. Like all of the party, the dwarf was tired – the miraculous blessing of the Celestial seemed days distant rather than hours.

Lost in a numb reverie, Ta’sara sat next to Rhys, unconsciously looking to family for comfort. Coughing at the dust, all she could hear was the wind blowing across the stones. Not a bird, not an insect, not any animal that she could identify. She hoped that this place would not be the death of them all, the same that the tomb had been for Wren and their distant kin Leera. The wrapped body of the young bard lay where it had fallen as Ta’sara had stumbled through the leygate – the incredible and essential wrongness of the place like an ache in her joints, a weakness in her bones, a queasy feeling that settled in guts like spoiled meat. The quiet, the dust and incredible dryness, the lack of vegetation made her think it was desert of some sort – but this matched no description of any desert she had ever read about. Beyond that, even the light of the distant stars was wrong and cold. There were none of the natural rhythms and currants that she was used to or even expected – only dust, shadows, and a distant lurking Darkness.

The tracks that had surrounded the purple-robed corpse had walked in the direction of the road and then stopped in mid-stride. Whomever had slain Xeron’s servant had teleported away in midstride and there was no way to know where they had gone. The Forgotten King’s remains and the equipment of his champions was nowhere to be seen and Ta’sara had no clue as to where to look next, no idea how to solve the problem in front of them, let alone the looming issue of the Vanguard and whatever their mission was in the threatened coming of the Age of Worms.

Face illuminated by the endless flame he held cupped in his hands, Jarvic listened to the song of the Great Dragon in the wind that swept across the land. It was a harsher, darker song, one that he had never heard before and it matched the ache in his muscles and the tiredness he felt in his very soul after the travails of the Barrow. Here, in this wide open space with nothing but rock and wind and dust Jarvic could hear the Great Dragon like never before, not just one Great Voice, but a multitude of lesser voices that sang in harmony and melody. It was so strong, these combined voices that made up the Great Dragon, the Great Dragon was so strong, that it felt like Jarvic was all but lifted off the ground, like the wind would carry him. The breeze eddied around him, filling his lungs so full that they would never empty, a constant presence and reminder that the Great Dragon was near, was present even here, was with him even with the Darkness so close.

The Darkness, Jarvic looked towards it. It weighed heavily on his mind, its presence almost adding a physical weight to his shoulders, adding to his weariness, holding him down where the Great Dragon would raise him up. The flame in his hand seemed dimmer here, less warm, colder, like the distant stars that could be seen through the twilight gloom of the sky. Stars that were in no configuration that he had ever seen nor any that he had read of. Their pattern reminded him of the writing that the Necromancer had stolen from his mind, not that it should be possible, but he felt weak and uneasy when he thought to deeply on the matter and his thoughts fled from half-remembered dreams of terrible things and worse possibilities.

While Fonkin had been able to read the missive from the tomb-robber Xeron, it was due to some arcane trick. Jarvic had recognized the script, even if he wasn’t skilled enough to read it. It was elaborate glyphs of the Ithian language – the language of the slavers that his family had escaped from when he was nothing but a child. An ancient and cruel people, of inhuman lusts and infamous plots, who dwelt far to south in a jungle empire built on the ruins of races and empires far worse than they. This rocky, desolate wasteland was not the jungle of Ith, so where had this Vanguard led them?

Shivering slightly as the wind picked up, Devon stared at the gleaming sword lying on the ground on a ripped and tattered cloak before him. The adamantine blade glowed faintly in the darkness the black and grey dust refusing to settle upon it. It sat there where he had placed it, almost dropped actually because gazing upon his companions he had been overwhelmed by the cacophony and hopelessness of their thoughts, their confusion, pain, and their fear. It had not happened again, but Devon was wary of that flood of information again. It made the young nobles own fear worse, that he would never see his wife again, that he would fail not just his family, but the Light itself by allowing the bones of Forgotten King whose sword this had been to be used in whatever fell ritual they were intended. The weight of that responsibility was crushing, weighing him down despite already being exhausted by the fight with the Betrayer and his companions.

Devon glanced in the direction of the Darkness and shuddered, it was as if he was living the tales and parables of the Enchiridion. It was hard, he knew he needed to be an inspiration even when he doubted himself. There is no Light greater than that found within the soul of the Faithful. It shines through the longest nights, in the deepest Darkness, and provides a beacon for those in the greatest need – was the quote and he remembered Frater Simeon reciting it as he learned Aleph in temple. Devon just wished that he was as strong as the blade in front of him, he knew he was unworthy, knew that he was merely weak flesh rather than celestial steel.

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Startled by the almost simultaneous low whistle by Rhys and soft coughing bark by Dhagri, the company came to their feet, grasping at weapons and looking in all directions. Appearing out the shadows, gliding silently down the road, a small landbarge – more of wagon actually – had appeared. Rarely seen, no one in the company had ever seen such a small one before. It floated silently down the center of the well-worn cobblestones of the ancient road, and as it drew closer they were all able to see who helmed it.

Sitting there, holding the wheel, was a broad shouldered dwarf, but not like one that any of them had ever seen before. Dressed in a long black skirt, the dwarf also wore a heavy, dark leather greatcoat over a tight fitting shirt the same shade as his skirt. While this was odd enough it was the rest of his appearance that drew the most attention – the ashen-colored skin and glittering black eyes with no whites and no iris were like nothing any of them had ever seen.

Pulling up a short way off from the party, the dwarf nodded and smiled, calling out in a deep baritone in Dwarrune, the private language of the dwarves. Ilda stepped forward and responded as the dwarf climbed down from the helm of the landbarge and smiling as nodding as he did so.

“Well met travelers, and unless I miss my mark from the Heartlands of Avalon too. Harsh winds this span, but you have travelled far to get here and I am called Heart of Coal, a humble merchant of the Shadowlands. Perhaps you would like to see my wares?”

The words were harshly accented, but clear and unmistakably Westron, surprisingly welcome after the long silence that the party had not even realized had settled upon them as they had sat with their thoughts. But the words themselves held within in them the terrifying answer of where they were.

The Great Realm of the Shadowlands.

Ruled by the Witch-King and his Ebon Council, who had alternately plagued and saved the Heartlands since time immemorial, and bordering the Great Realm of the Dead, the Shadowlands were the home of daemons, succubae, and deadly beasts that were the stuff of both legend and legend in the Mortal Realms.

It wasn’t the Pit of Hell, but tales said there was a road from the palace of the Witch-King that led straight to the throne of the First of the Fallen.

By the Light, the Great Dragons, and the Old Powers – what exactly was this Vanguard and why had their minions fled here of all places?

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

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