Animal Companion (Druid Spell) and Familiar Bond (Wizard Spell) (DnD 5e)

Animal Companion

2nd-Level Enchantment (Ritual)

  • Casting Time: 1 Day
  • Range: 20 Feet
  • Components: V, S, M (100sp of Charcoal, Herbs, and Incense that must be consumed in a fire)
  • Duration: Instantaneous

The Druid gains the companionship of a Beast of no more than CR½ that is present during the course of the ritual, popular animal choices include, but are not limited to, Black Bears, Boars, Deer, Hawks, Owls, Panthers, Ravens, and Wolves. A Druid of 11th level of greater may gain the companionship of a Beast up to CR1.

The Druid may speak with their animal companion at all times in a way similar to the Speak with Animals spell (q.v.)

The animal companion acts independently of the Druid and is a “boon companion” rather than a familiar or other similar spirit aide. In combat it rolls its own initiative and takes its own actions. The animal companion gains hit dice such that it always has the same number of hit dice as their Druid companion, and they are allowed either Ability Score Improvements or Feats at the same time as their Druids gain the same improvement. Their proficiency score is always equal to that of their Druid, and they may use the Druid’s Intelligence and Wisdom saves instead of their own

The animal companion remains with the Druid until death or until it is released – while amazingly hale and hearty it’s lifespan is not greater than that of its wilder brethren. Released companions often stay near to Druidic places of Power and act as guardians as the Druids take care of them in their final years. Additionally, nothing prevents a Druid from Awakening (q.v.) an Animal Companion – often making these guardians quite dangerous.

A Druid may only have one Animal Companion at a time.

 

Familiar Bond

2nd-Level Enchantment (Ritual)

  • Casting Time: 8 Hours
  • Range: 10 Feet
  • Components: V, S, M (30sp of Charcoal, Herbs, and Incense that must be consumed in a fire in a brazier)
  • Duration: Instantaneous

Unlike the 1st-Level Find Familiar (q.v.) which summons a spiritual “Fetch” to aid the magic user, the spell Familiar Bond creates an oath-bound alliance between the Wizard and an allied creature. Often performed with infant animals (or possibly with the animals parents in some cases), the spell creates an intense bond that cannot be broken save by either the violation of the agreement by the Wizard – these creatures rarely exceed CR½. In exceedingly rare cases, bonds may even be formed with Fey, Celestials, or Fiends if the Wizard can contact appropriately powerful entities from the appropriate Court to negotiate with – these creatures can be CR1 or possibly even higher if the oath’s are worthy of it.

The Familiar rolls its own initiative and takes its own actions. The hit dice of the Familiar is always at least equal to their Wizard, and the Familiar may always use the Wizards proficiency bonus as well. If the Wizards saves are better the Familiar may also substitute those saves for their own. The Familiar also gains Ability Score improvements and Feats at the same time as their Wizard.

The Wizard may communicate telepathically with the Familiar if they within 100 feet of each other, and they may also, as an Action, “ride along” with one or more senses of their Familiar (being oblivious to their own matching sense at while doing so).

The Familiar can maintain Concentration for one spell that the Wizard has cast as long as they are within 100 feet of the caster. The Familiar may act as the “point of origin” for purposes of range for the Wizard as long as they are within 100 feet.

If the Familiar takes damage, the Wizard takes an equal amount of Psychic damage (that bypasses any Resistance or Immunity). The Wizard is also Stunned for one round (Charisma Save, DC15, for no effect). If the Familiar is reduced to zero hit points then the Wizard immediately takes Psychic damage equal to the Familiar’s Hit Points (Charisma Save, DC15, Half Damage, other bypassing any Resistance or Immunity). They are also automatically Stunned for one round. Both Wizard and Familiar have Advantage on Death Saves while the other is still alive. If the Familiar is slain, the Wizard is affected as if by a Feeblemind spell (DC10+ Familiar’s Hit Dice).

A Wizard may only have one Familiar at a time, though they may also have a Fetch as summoned by the 1st-Level Find Familiar spell.

 

NOTE: Yes, a multi-classed Druid/Warlock/Wizard could have an Animal Companion, a Pact of the Chain Familiar, a Fetch, and a Familiar. If they were also a Ranger with the Beast Master Archtype they could also have Ranger’s Companion as well.

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Do dwarves take baths…?

So, the other day a picture of a chinchilla came up on my Tumblr, and I was struck for a moment by the image of one taking a dust bath. I immediately wondered if dwarves took dust baths? Do dwarves bathe? They don’t like deep water, they pretty much can’t swim (too dense), and the big reason to take a bath is because of sweat and I didn’t even know (because I’d never thought of it) if dwarves even sweat…

I kind of liked the idea though, the idea of dust baths and maybe filing away callouses and the like – or just a really good pumice scraping. So I took the idea to my dwarf player, KT, and talked it over with her. She kind of liked the idea as well, and after some discussion of physiological issues involved (no sweating means different ways of shedding heat, etc) we decided that it was a fine idea and added to it. Dwarves take dust baths, as well as baths with sand or some other coarse abrasive when they need to get rid of stains or caked on whatever. They have generally use pumice or a file to remove calluses and trim nails, and occasionally will slake themselves in oil and scrape themselves down – plus they’ll use oils on their beards occasionally to help shaped them and otherwise keep them healthy after being soaked in water to avoid lighting on fire at the forge.

Dwarves tend to keep their beards tucked into pouches, soaked in water, when they work at the forge in order to keep them safe. I can’t remember if that’s an old Ed Greenwood detail, or one that came from some old Tolkien illustration, but I distinctly remember liking it from somewhere, somewhen.

In fact, the only dwarves who are ever likely to actually wash with water are Hill Dwarves, because they are travelling so often. They don’t like it, and are likely to look a bit dirtier than the average Mountain Dwarf or Dwimmervolk for that reason – which of course adds to their reputation as being the “poor relatives” and vagrants who are at least (thankfully) better then those filthy, clanless and honorbroken Druegar…

We also decided that whatever the temperature regulation mechanism was for dwarven physiology, they just weren’t as bothered by temperature ranges from an comfort level. They aren’t resistant to heat or cold, but their “comfort zone” was far broader than that of a human.

TTFN!

D.

 

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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.

D.

 

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Unearthed Arcana, 5e Playtest Material, and Min-Maxing

I have to say that while I enjoy reading the various material that come through Unearthed Arcana, and even approve of most of them – reading people utterly flip out on EnWorld about them is probably more enjoyable. It’s a collection of folks freaking out as they come up with every possible Min-Maxed way that something could be or should be broken, complaints about the flavor text, and just general Internet fan-boy hysteria.

The latest one, with the Hexblade Patron, the Raven Queen Patron, the extra Eldritch Boons, and the then Lore Master Arcane Tradition for Wizards has people’s heads exploding. Personally I don’t find any of them particularly bad and kind of like them, I can certainly see some of the complaints – but when you grew up with quadratic magic-users I’m not exactly intimidated by these.

Part of the issue is the idea of level-dipping, an annoying metagamey artifact of 3E D&D. This is a problem only if the DM is dumb enough (or inexperienced enough) to allow it unchecked. Those of us raised and nourished in the halcyon days of 1E pretty much view any ability to “switch classes” after character creation to be a gift from the gods (aka the DM, often via an actual act of deity). As such, at least in my campaign, it’s should never be viewed as a given (or a “right”) it should be viewed as illustration of character development.

Case in point, if your Fighter character really starts thinking like a Paladin and you wanted to “multiclass” I’d be much more tempted to simply switch the character’s class than have a “Fighter/Paladin” – same thing with Cleric in many cases.  If your Cleric wants to train as a Monk… well, yeah, that takes awhile and you’re probably going to have a Cleric/Monk…

Also, in my campaign, multi-classing is generally going to result in a significant investment of time on the part of the character (months, not days or weeks) – which means that they are going to lag behind in level if the rest of the party has continued adventuring. Let be serious, 5e characters are already amazing overpowered compared to 1E and 2E (and, by accounts, to 3E & 4E as well), multi-classing makes them even more powerful – so yes, I’m going to make players work for it a bit.

Which, as anyone who knows me, doesn’t mean that I particularly care about powerful PC’s – I love players having powerful PC’s and I have yet to meet one that I can’t kill or otherwise deal with if I really wanted to. I threw out CR awhile ago as broken and most creatures in my games are not Monster Manual standard – another artifact of a long-running campaign world. In fact the majority of the “problems” in my current campaign has been from one of two sources, hewing to closely to some of the 5e assumptions regarding game balance, and trying to hard to follow the actual adventure path for the Age of Worms.

I should probably update my page for House Rules to address all of the various articles as to which are allowed and which aren’t.

TTFN!

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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Neat Interview

A Conversation with Mike Pondsmith, Creator of Cyberpunk 2020

A really interesting interview with the creator of one of favorite games, Cyberpunk 2020. Of note is that Walter Jon Williams, one of the seminal Cyberpunk authors, was a play-tester for the original CP2013 rules and that Mike had not read any Walter Gibson until doing the rule-revisions for that became CP2020.

 

 

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Games I Want to Play in 2017

The title says it all, what games do I want to play this year?

Dnd 5E is a simple choice, we’re still running with the Age of Worms adventure path, along with having to add in the odd adventure here and there. We’re all enjoying it, and I’m still having lots of fun figuring out the details of my campaign world in 5E terms.

Call of Cthulhu 7E – Everyone seemed to enjoy the short intro adventure(s). KT is really interested in playing one of the longer, classic campaigns and with the Pulp Rules that even seems possible without having to have a seemingly exhaustless supply of new characters. The big issue is that I have one player that has no interest in playing it and sits out those games.

Traveller – I love this RPG, and you can see some of my meanderings about the setting here on the blog. For the life of me I can’t decide if I wanted to use the Classic Traveller or the Mongoose Traveller rules-set. But they aren’t particularly incompatible, I’m just increasingly drawn to simpler vs. complicated. Both are pretty simple, and the complications are different in each edition.

Cyberpunk 2020 – Another game that I simply love, combined with a setting I enjoy (especially when I combine it with Traveller). I have to say that CP2020 is a slightly more adult game in the way it explicitly handles some subject matters (cybernetic sexual implants anyone?)- but I like how it is relatively fast-paced and the mechanics are pretty simple for everyone to grasp.

Kult: Divinity Lost – Ok, this may be a pipe dream simply because if Call of Cthulhu is too much horror (body horror, occult horror, etc), and CP2020 is too much sexuality (at least potentially), then Kult is the very grown up mix of the two and is intended to be played that way – think Hellraiser + Martyrs + American Psycho + Se7enMulholland Drive. I Kickstarted this, and have the alpha version of the Quick Start rules that were released around Yule. I’m not entirely certain about the Powered By The Apocalypse engine but would be willing to give it a try. It seems to be trying to be too clever for it’s own good in some ways… But finding players that want to play Kult? That might be the issue…

Lastly, I love to play Runequest – I Kickstarted the reprint of 2E, but what I’m really looking forward to is the new edition. For those who aren’t familiar, it is adventuring in it’s own, highly detailed setting, using Bronze Age technology and tropes. It’s always been a very different kind of game and I haven’t played it in years.  I kind of hope that it gets out this year but I’m actually thinking that it will get Kickstarted and then released in 2018… *sigh*

As an Honorable Mention, I’d also love to pick up the Chicago Unseen campaign that my husband and I co-ran back in the day. It was originally run using Mage: The Ascension, but we just find White Wolf as a system/engine pretty badly broken. I looked at a number of games as a replacement, and finally settled on Witchcraft and Armageddon as a bit of a mashup. The truth is, unless my husband gets excited about it, I can’t imagine that I’d get excited about running it. That may be a game/setting that has finally moved into the pasture, to be mined for ideas and remembered fondly.

TTFN!

D.

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Player Knowledge vs. Character Knowledge

Also, closely related, is Player Intelligence/Wisdom vs. Character Intelligence/Wisdom (and, for that matter, Charisma).

While this usually couched in terms of things that the players know that the characters don’t, everything from simple Out-Of-Character knowledge based on listening to other players to a real-world doctor playing a character with no medical knowledge, I want to talk about this from the perspective of things the players don’t know that their characters do – many of these notable because I have done them so the disparity can be glaring when I try explain how something does or doesn’t work.

The short list I’ve run into in my games over the years:

  • What it is like to hike with a full pack for anything from short daytrips, to extended multiday backpacking trips.
  • Related to the above, but what it is really like to travel “overland” when there is no trail.
  • Also related to the above, but travelling or simply living in radically different climates. Forest is different from plains is different from jungle (not me, but my husband served during Operation Just Cause in Panama and my father served in Vietnam, so plenty of 1st Person data there) is different from badlands, is different from desert (husband also served in Desert Storm), etc.
  • What combat is actually like. Ok, so I have a couple of vets in my group, but most people have never even been in a serious fight as an adult. They’ve never studied martial arts, never thrown a kick or a punch or received one either (let alone a throw or taken a fall).
  • Related to the above. Guns. Never fired them, never handled them, no idea of what it takes to conceal one, etc. etc. etc.
  • Knives and swords follow – FWIW I’d almost rather be shot rather than stabbed…
  • Ok, wearing armor – and just how much it can mess with movement and comfort (and how much it doesn’t, depending on training and design)
  • Hunting and dressing game – I have players who would prefer to think that meat came in plastic packages on trees. The nuts and bolts of draining blood, gut removal, etc. is beyond them.
  • Amusingly, since I started doing rock climbing again last year (indoor only, this summer should see us grabbing rock again) the number of people who’ve never done rock climbing or any sort of technical (aka, with a rope and/or harness) climbing is pretty small.
  • Can we say the same thing about canoes?

Now, none of this is a problem exactly, the problem is when a player’s entire corpus on knowledge of this sort of thing comes from RPG’s, CRPG’s, movies, documentaries, and the occasional Reality TV show (though those latter two can be pretty illuminating for some topics). It’s been awhile since I’ve had a player who argued some point of detail, at this point my players have all pretty much established their areas-of-knowledge and expertise and we use them all to our advantage.

D.

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Player Races

So, in picking up 5e again after the short break for Call of Cthulhu, and reading Volo’s Guide to Monsters, I’m struck at how 5e handles character races. I get that there are many problematic pieces to level limits (ala 1e), or even experience point penalties (ala 3.5e), the latter especially given that I’ve moved to story-based advancement rather than tracking XP. But for the life of me I have no reason to vote “for” playing a human in 5e and many more for playing another race – save for strictly flavor-text RP preference, unless the GM mandates some sort of ratio.

Now, I had pretty much banned folk from playing elves in my campaign world (with a couple of very notable exceptions) because I didn’t think anyone could play the mindset very well. I dropped that, at the same time I have a world where I want things to feel very “human -centric” – quite unlike the far more cosmopolitan Forgotten Realms for example. For me this makes the actually cosmopolitan areas stand out more.

But I’ll be damned about how to incentivize people to play humans over other races – and racial bonuses to stats make this even worse. Honestly, I think I’m going to switch statistic modifiers back to something more in-line with my 1e rules, perhaps even penalizing my non-humans more stringently. That was always a thing about playing a non-human yes, you got the stat bonus but there was always an associated penalty…

Now, this is probably at least partly a shared problem with my players. As one example, Ilda the Dwarf Bard might as well be Ilda the Elven Bard or Ilda the Human Bard, there is nothing especially “dwarvish” in the way that KT plays Ilda and while this is certainly something I’ve allowed, it’s also a failure on the part of the player to fully embrace the character’s race. MS always plays humans because he has said that he’s not interested in making things harder for himself, so I think that has stood out in his play of Lord Devin. That wasn’t always the case because I can remember when Ilda took some very strong stands against looting tombs.

When people have played nonhumans before, I’ve been used to them embracing the race and running with it. Sometimes playing a large part in creating that races culture – two of my previous characters did that with gnome. There is a reason why they are Celtic-ish, kilt-wearing, Druidic, hard-drinking folks rather than the version portrayed in other settings.

I also noticed that in the last couple of sessions I’ve dropped almost all of my descriptive detail – and that’s not good for the game. If I’m not setting the mood and the tone well, my players will follow suit and pretty soon were not role-playing, we’re roll-playing and essentially miniatures wargaming using the 5e rules. Not exactly a bad thing, but not what people came to do.

But getting back to character races, taking a page from Character Backgrounds, I think each nonhuman character race needs a real hook that serves as a foil. For my high elves and wood elves it is their lack of understanding of money, KR has done a good job of using that to build flavor into Gwynneth, but I don’t quite have anything like that for the other races. I should probably review each race and build something in on that level as I review statistic bonuses and penalties.

TTFN!

D.

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Volo’s Guide to Monsters (Review)

Ok, so this came in last Friday and I have to say that I’m pretty favorably inclined to it. I’m not even sure that I care about the extra monsters stat blocks, at this point I seem to be more inclined to grab my 1e books and adapt things on the fly, or I’m using modules and doing the same thing. But, the monster lore and character races are really nicely done – even the bits I will never use.

Beholders – don’t have them in my world, so not a thing for me, but still a nicely done section. I don’t have standard giants or an Ordning in my world so this is probably the least useful section for me. Yaun-Ti are the basis for my Ithians, and it was nicely done.

I don’t have Mind Flayers, so this is less useful to me but like beholders I things it’s well done section. My Ichneumon Vorre are essentially my version of Illithids, so over the years I have ganked some bits and pieces for them. The Goblinoid and Orc sections are similarly iffy, but mostly because my goblins are more Harn-esque than Tolkien in many ways, but I plenty of stuff there than I can use.

Kobolds and Hags are kind of interesting. I have kobolds, but as jungle-dwelling or desert-dwelling creatures (two differently adapted relations, the same with lizard men) but I liked the write-up. Hags as an organized group really gives me some food for thought – not sure if I’ll use it, but it’s well done.

The PC races would all need to be tweaked in the same way that I’ve tweaked the “standard races” but I like them. The new Aaismar is much more evocative than the version from the DMG, and the rest have their interesting aspects that are worth looking at.

Worth it as a GM (though perhaps not if you are a player), especially if you playing in a standard 5e setting.

D.

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