Game Play

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…




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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 1th 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,





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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.



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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.



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A Letter to Frater 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.


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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.



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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.



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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.


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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