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Updates and Skills vs Tools vs Professions

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

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

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

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

IDK, something to ponder…



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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.



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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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Call of Cthulhu 7e has arrived!

So, this past Monday I was happy to find on my doorstep the box containing my long awaited Call of Cthulhu 7e rules – and I have to say that I find browsing and reading the rules much easier in physical form than on the PDF’s I’ve had for awhile. It also means that I’ll have to update a couple of my previous posts to be more in-line with 7e rules. (EDIT: Done and Done)

I’ve also been looking at the fact that I’ve been running my current 5e campaign for about a year-and-a-half now – and as the Age of Worms continues to threaten it would easily continue to run for many more years. That isn’t exactly a problem, but historically I’ve tend to run games/campaigns for between 1-2 years and then flipped to another game/genre to help rejuvenate myself creatively – and I’m certainly hitting that point now.

So I think that I have one solid chapter in me for the 5e campaign. The party has successfully plundered the Whispering Cairn, discovering treasures and lore of the Wind Dukes that have been long-hidden and is now preparing to investigate one of the local mines – suspecting the owner of being part of the Cult of the Ebion Triad and working towards bringing about the Age of Worms. The party can complete that and I’ll have an excellent place to leave things and even give the party some significant downtime before we pick up the campaign again.

That begs the question of what I could run next. I have a strong vote from at least one player for Call of Cthulhu though to be truthful I’d rather wait until I had Pulp Cthulhu on hand to use. I’m interested enough in what they’ve done with 7e that I think that Pulp Cthulhu might be a good substitute for my own pulp rules – or at least mesh with them well enough that they added significantly to the game (or add a better framework to manipulate).

My other two “stand-bys” are also possible – Cyberpunk 2020 and Traveller. Now I’ve run many games with a mash-up of the two, but I have been somewhat fond of the Mongoose 1e version of Traveller and have the entire SRD saved to hand out to players if need be. It is a simple game that hearkens back to Classic Traveller in many ways, and I’ve been tinkering with a non-OTU setting for a couple of years now (much of it, thankfully, not lost when my hard drive crashed). I’ve been really pondering the concept of Proto-Traveller a great deal, and somewhat consciously rejecting the OTU – while at the same time amused and amazed at how different the OTU seems to be from what everyone assumed after reading Agent of the Imperium by Mark Miller.

Cyberpunk 2020 is a very rich setting with a very easy engine. It’s theoretically hampered by the conceptual twitching provoked by the idea that it is actually set in the year 2020 – and that could be hard to sell a great many people. I think that it might work better as a “Cyberpunk 2200” set a couple of hundred years in the future, that changes the canon timeline but much of the flavor text of the game can remain the same. Perhaps a future where the solar system has been explored and settled but where there is no FTL travel so we remain stuck in orbit around Sol for all intents and purposes – though I suppose a bit of Bladerunner-inspired flavor means that the Tannhauser Gate could be a thing…




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Well, crap…

Things are a bit disorganized at the moment because I suffered a catastrophic hard-drive crash… Next (and final) step is to see how much a professional data recovery service will cost. Yeah, it’s a business expense, but I don’t actually make that much money compared to the mountain of student debt, plus things like the mortgage, etc.

And yes, I know, I know I should have been backing things up better – that is also a story in and off itself. Several stories actually, most of which involve HIPPA requirements. That’s actually not nearly so hard to deal with these days…

But, the insult to the injury here is that I’ve been making a concerted effort to get rid of paper – as in get rid of all the extra printouts of things that generally just occupy space. So, many of the things that I used to have an extra hardcopy of?

Eaten by the shredder and gone, or otherwise simply tossed out.

C’est la vie!

If things can’t be recovered then I’ll be forced to reconstruct things. Some of this is a huge pain in the ass – and some things simply won’t be. I can’t remember everything, let alone what I might or might not have tucked in away on my hard drive. Some of what I end up reconstructing I may have to simply decide what format in – some were Publisher files, many were in Word, some in Excel. I’m certain that not all of them were organized as well as they could have been.

So, while I’m hopeful for recovery, I’m also looking at this as an opportunity – no matter that it will come with a fair amount of work.


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Happy Thanksgiving!

Take care, drive safe, and enjoy time with those close to you!



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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.



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My Apologies!

The month of October was a bear – very, very busy. We have been gaming, I owe the readers I think it’s three or four Session logs. I have drafts as placeholders, so I’ll see if I can get those out of the way sooner rather than later!



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Yeah, falling behind… but… Psionics!

Yeah, I have two gamelogs to write up (they are relatively easy sessions to cover so I’m not sure why I haven’t gotten to them yet), plus a couple of other entries that I’ve been tinkering with, plus a big set of posts on languages in my campaign world that I about have ready for posting – but I just wanted to raise my head up for some air as well as point out how nicely done the new psychic rules are for 5e. While far from complete, and with a couple of potential ringers in there that might break a game, I’m pretty happy with how they are written up. Power-wise they are easy to scale up (same as I’m finding with Arcane and Divine casters) and the way that happens already fits into my “established” methods for doing so. I guess I’ll have to start thinking about writing those up as well. Oh, and I now have a request to come up with an animal companion Druid circle. So I guess that is now near the top of my list of things to work on in my spare time. TTFN! D.

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