Falling speeds

Have you ever needed to know how fast a PC falls? Sometimes it’s important to know whether they have time for an action on their turn, or just a reaction (usually, it’s just a reaction). I wrote a brief table based on creature size, using 6-second rounds as the basis.

Fall in 1 round Fall per round Time to fall 1 mile
Small 330’ 500’/r 11r
Medium 500’ 930’/r 7r
Large 550’ 1,500’/r (for 2 r); 2,500/r 3r

And here’s the same table in metric:

Fall in 1 round Fall per round Time to fall 1 km
Small 100m 150m/r 7r
Medium 150m 250m/r 4r
Large 170m 600m/r (for 2 r); 850m/r 2r

I make no statements as to the scientific accuracy of the data – I ball-parked a midline weight from the PHB (and, in the case of the large creature, average horse weights), and then rounded to produce pleasing numbers. But I think it’ll do as a decent rule of thumb.

(P.S. I think it’ll be rare that PCs will be flying above the 1-round line. Much more than that and they’re out-of-range for a lot of spells and weapons.)

Dragon’s Dungeon Rules

After a lot of revisions, and tormenting my game group during one-off sessions, I’ve finally crystallized my D&D hack (that I posted about months ago) into a 2-page system. Cool features include:

  • a semi-classless system, using templates and backgrounds for structure and flavour.
  • a wound system, which is basically the same as the hit point system, but does away with all the fiddly little numbers.
  • a port of Burning Wheel’s beliefs, traits, and instincts, and its Wises (in a manner of speaking).
  • a mana-based casting system.
  • a stamina mechanic.
  • a free-form weapon creation system, balanced for 5e.
  • simplified encumbrance.
  • concise combat rules that allows for a lot of tactical thinking and not just swing-swing-miss-swing.
  • non-combat conflict resolution systems – one based off Savage Worlds’ social conflict mechanic, and one from Dungeonesque’s montage rules.
  • a simple and unobstrusive skill proficiency system which allows for plenty of customization if the player wants (inspired by the GLOG and Telecanter‘s House Rules Selection). It includes the Talent mechanic from Advanced Old-School-Style Microlite20.

It’s pretty flexible (in my opinion): you can make just about any class with the right combination of templates, background, wises, and skill selection (and magical powers, for full casters). Races are pretty easy. You can plug in the spell list of your choice, although I have posted my own here.

And, most importantly, I think there’s lots of material for all of you to hack out for house-rules of your own. That’s how this started. I’m just passing more ideas onto you guys.

Download it here.

Ritual magic for D&D

A wizard can cast a spell without spending a spell slot (or spell points or whatever) . This ritual requires:

  • 10 minutes per spell level squared in the casting. During this time, the caster must devote all their energies into this: they cannot be riding, or be interrupted, or eat (they may drink, if the drink is handed to them).
  • Incense and so forth equaling 10gp per spell level (in addition to any other material components required by the spell). Each assistant reduces the cost by 1gp.
Spell Level Casting Time
1st 10 minutes
2nd 40 minutes
3rd 1.5 hours
4th 2 hours 40 minutes
5th 4 hours 10 minutes
6th 6 hours
7th 8 hours 10 minutes
8th 10 hours 40 minutes
9th 13 hours 30 minutes

If the spell wasn’t prepared, the caster must succeed at an INT check (DC 10 + spell level, or with a penalty = spell level, whichever is more appropriate). Otherwise the spell fails and the time and incense are wasted.

[This has the effect of making spells like detect magic much easier to use – there’s no need to skip it because you want an extra magic missile. 5e came close, but it only allowed a few spells to be rituals (which I feels stifles creativity). Also, I quite like the idea of high-level spells being cast as all-day rituals.]

Another option: allow PCs to study/pray to swap out memorised spells during the day: this takes 10 minutes per spell level, and a successful INT/WIS check (as above).

Board game recommendations

Here’s a few board games that I love, and think are great for kids:

  • Settlers of Catan (3-4, or 5-6 with the extension box): reasonably straight-forward, very replayable (randomised board), minimal language dependency (just numbers & icons), lots of player interaction (negotiation and trade). [info, buy, iOS, Android]
  • Ticket to Ride (2-5): as long as they can figure out where cities are on the map, it’s just colours. Strategic thinking helps, but it’s not required. Player interaction is mostly in figuring out where other people might go, and going there first. [info, buy]
  • Carcassonne (2-5): tile- and pawn-placement game. Try to build the best landscape and score points. Fairly strategic, but a lot of it comes down to what tile you draw. The rules are very simple. [info, buy, iOS, Android]
  • King of Tokyo (2-6): like Yahtzee, but you’re playing as giant monsters trying to destroy Tokyo city. Very fun, plays fairly fast, but does involve player elimination. [info, buy]
  • Kingdom Builder (2-4): a favourite of mine. Randomised board and goals each game. Try to place settlements on the board to get the most points. [info, buy, iOS, Android]
  • Love Letter (2-4): fast-playing bluffing/guessing game, with all the rules on the cards. [info, buy]
  • Sushi Go! (2-5): pick a card, pass your hand on, and repeat, then score. Adorable art, with reminders on the cards. It was designed with kid-friendliness in mind. [info, buy]

A Casting Mechanic, and a Stamina System

Based on The Black Hack’s usage die concept:


Every caster has a spellcasting die (based on their level – d4 at 1st, d20 at 20th). Casting a spell means the caster rolls their spellcasting die after the spell takes effect. If the number rolled is equal to or lower than the level of the spell, the usage die drops one step (and if it was a d4, magic is gone). Sleeping for the night resets the die back to maximum (or only one step, if you wanna slow things down for casters).

As an aftertought, this is probably only good for players if you’ve got DCC dice with wacky numbers of sides, due to the lack of granularity between levels. But I reckon it’ll be great for NPCs – I reckon you’ll want a 50/50 chance of the die dropping after they cast their highest-level spell.


Everyone has a stamina die based on their Constitution (or Strength). Whenever they do something potentially exhausting (combat, chasing, climbing, etc.), they roll their stamina die. If it rolls equal or under their encumbrance limit, the die drops one step. If it goes from a d4 to nothing, the character needs to rest NOW. Sleeping for the night resets the die back to maximum (or only one step, if you wanna slow things down for everyone).

  • CON 8 or less: d4
  • CON 9-12: d6
  • CON 13-15: d8
  • CON 16-17: d10
  • CON 18: d12

Encumbrance (in stones):

    • weight under half STR: 1
    • weight under STR: 2
    • weight under STR x 1.5: 3
    • weight under STR x2: 4

    Anything over STR x2 is just too much. Make them roll their stamina die for walking a few steps.

    D&D Hack: Monsters

    Or rather, monster stat blocks. Always something of a contentious issue. “Pathfinder is too complex” “AD&D is too simple”

    Personally, I feel like 5e did pretty well with monsters. Their stat blocks aren’t as dense as Pathfinder/3.x, and they capture the essence of the monster. It’s a pity the Monster Manual has terrible lay-out. Why are Blink Dogs in the appendix? What’s a quipper? And why the F*&% are all the “Giant” creatures together, but Succubus/Incubus aren’t with the demons or devils? Doesn’t matter, I’m ranting.

    Justin Alexander, of thealexandrian.net, presents a very simple method for monster creation here, which relies on a table of default statistics.  The idea is that you have a few basic stats, and specify whatever other abilities or stats are crucial for the monster’s flavour or identity.

    This is, largely, what 5e does (though with less simplicity). Every monster in 5e has at least one interesting feature: wolves have Pack Tactics, goblins have Nimble Escape, orcs have Aggressive, and so on. These abilities tell you a lot about the creatures in question: wolves are better if they gang up, or at least work in pairs. Goblins are great ambushers (ironically, moreso than Bugbears). Orcs are fast on the battlefield, as long as they can see their foes.

    The aim is for monsters to be more than bags of hit points. I’ve found that, as soon as monsters have a specific thing – be it a combat trick, a tactic, even a distinctive look – they’re easier to run and more fun for the players.

    I’ll probably end up using Alexander’s table often myself, but it’s not very PocketMod-able. So, how can we define the defaults for monsters on one-eighth of a piece of A4 or letter paper?

    First, in old-school tradition, monsters add their HD to attack rolls – unless they are “Martial” (add x2, for low-HD town guards and such), or “Clumsy” (add half, in the case of high-HD ogres who can’t hit for shit).

    AC and HD obviously need to be defined, as does attack damage. HD are probably going to be d8s, but in a 3.x game, it’s probably better to use d10s, to compensate for the lack of CON bonuses.

    Saving throws? In Labyrinth Lord, monsters mostly had saves identical to a Fighter of their level. Which meant that I needed the Save table on my screen. That’s not PocketMod-able, but it did keep the stat block slim. So, we use the Fort/Ref/Will trinity that I think is the best set of saves ever (it’s minimalist and intuitive). All monsters add half their HD to all saves, unless specified (Good = add HD, Poor = no bonus).

    Speed is 30′ walking, unless specified.

    Skills… Most of the time, monsters won’t need skills. But this is a great place to use the 4 M20 skills: monsters and NPCs don’t need the fiddly detail that PCs need. So, if a monster needs a skill, pick Physical, Subterfuge, Knowledge and/or Communication, and give the monster a bonus equal to 1/2 or 1x HD. Easy to improv at the table, easy to note down.

    Alternatively, you can just use the Save bonus for the skill. Monsters with good Reflex saves are generally going to be sneaky, and monsters with good Fort saves are going to be good at STRONG things.

    Here’s a couple of examples:

    HD 2, AC 15, Attk 1d6+2.
    Nimble Escape (Hide or Disengage as bonus action).
    Reflex Good:, Fort: Poor.

    HD 8, AC 11, Attk 2d6 (Clumsy)
    Fort & Physical: Good, Will: Poor
    Ogres are stupid, and tend to hit the closest enemy, or the enemy that hits them the most.