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).

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.

D&D Hack: skills

Moving on from my last post: skills.

Pathfinder has a broad selection of skills, but I find the skill point allocation far too fiddly.
5e also has a good selection of skills, which is more concise. But most of my players find the skill proficiency mechanic too limiting.
M20 has far too few skills (4!!!), but I like the idea of overlapping skills that, by default, allow easy picking of the related attribute at the time of skill rolling intriguing.

If I base my skill list off 5e, then I can (for instance) collapse Acrobatics & Athletics into the one skill, and just call for STR or DEX as appropriate. Or CON, in the case of endurance feats.

So, what do I consider the minimum? I’ll use the M20 skills as a base, and build up from there.

Physical: Athletics, Ride/Handle Animal (one skill)
Subterfuge: Stealth, Disable Device, Sleight of Hand. These, I feel, are the core trinity of rogue skills.
Knowledge: this is a tricky one, because some of the skills under this are Knowledge X skills, but there’s also Healing, and perhaps Survival. Crafting? Maybe that can take a leaf out of 5e’s book…
Communication: Persuasion, Deceit, Intimidation. Again, core trinity. But I miss the Gather Information of old, which is just a CHA check in 5e. I’m gonna borrow the Streetwise skill from Savage Worlds: it can cover Gather Information, but also a rogue’s ability to find contacts, or a fighter’s knowledge of his home town’s back alleys. It’s versatile, and that’s what I want.

Here’s my list so far:
-Animal Handling (as in 5e, this covers riding as well as training, etc)
-Crafting (specialties: Poison, Smithing, Carpentry, Masonry, etc)
-Deceit (Ye olde Bluff, but with a more generic name)
-Disable Device
-Intimidation (this doesn’t just have to be CHA based – INT and STR are also options, based on the situation)
-Knowledge (specialties: Arcana, History, Nature, Religion. Streetwise covers K.Local, which I always felt was missing from 5e, and you can take others if you really want to)
-Perception (WIS based for Spot checks, INT based for investigation rolls. This way the rogue doesn’t get shafted by needing another whole new skill)
-Persuasion (like Intimidation, this can be INT based for logical arguments or CHA based for passionate pleas)
-Sleight of Hand (I was just gonna fold this into Stealth, but there’s way more applications than just picking pockets)
-Stealth (ye olde Hide in Shadows and Move Silently)
-Survival (for tracking, foraging, navigating, etc)

I wonder if there’s anything crucial that I’ve missed?

Now, for skill mechanics.

At character creation, you can pick a number of skills (by class: Fighters 2, Casters 4, Rogues 6) to be proficient in. Proficiency bonus is equal to 1/2 level, rounded up (so that 1st-level characters get some bonus). In addition, all characters can (when levelling) choose to gain a skill point to allocate to any skill. Rogues can get 2 skill points instead.

DCs will probably be on the 5e scale, as I don’t really want +20s on any kind of roll.

Thoughts on D&D design

So, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about RPG design. My goal is mostly towards minimalism. While I appreciate the mechanical elegance in Pathfinder, I found running it to be wearisome (especially with players telling me I was doing things wrong).

We played Labyrinth Lord (with Tomb of Horrors), and it played fast, but it has no mechanical elegance. A lot of people have tried to mesh the simplicity of design with elegance of design. 5e looks really good, but it has a lot of stuff. Certainly nothing close to Pathfinder and its ilk, but sometimes you just want something that’s easy, where all of your character’s stuff fits in your head, etc. 
Microlite has both, and I think it’s great to introduce newbies to the genre (my wife’s uncle took to the game like the proverbial duck last Christmas), but it has too little crunch. I like the mix’n’match feel of the skills, and I plan to use that philosophy — but 4 skills? I don’t think you can create meaningfully diverse PCs at that level. It’s worse than LL.
When I was looking up M20, I rediscovered PocketMod booklets. I have 4 of these, and together they summarise: character creation and gameplay, spells (9th levels for 2 classes), monsters, and a GM’s guide. On 4 pocket-friendly pieces of paper. How great is that?
So, what am I aiming for? Rules that…
–are short enough to fit on a few PocketMods (like, char.gen, combat, spells, GM stuff).
–allow for players to make meaningful choices when designing characters.
–allow players to make solid characters without system mastery or min maxing.
–simple enough that I have basic structure for anything, but room to rule everything if need be.
–can be played without any reference to the rules (with spells as the only possible exception).
Is this possible? I believe so.
Character creation is going to be modelled off Zak S’s post “Since Nobody Asked Me…Here’s My Type V“, and simple combat with structural room for meaningful combat choices will be based on Sly Flourish’s “Guide to Narrative Combat in Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition.

Summoner – A Sorcerous Origin for 5e

I haven’t been on here in a while. My gaming passions have changed – my systems of preference are 5e and Savage Worlds. But having played Pathfinder recently, I’ve still got the flavour of a couple of classes in my mind. I always appreciated the neatness of Pathfinder, especially in its improvements over 3.5. But after playing it for a few months, the complexity got to me. 5e turned up at just the right time for me, and it seemed like a veritable god-send. Savage Worlds is my catch-all for any games I want to play that aren’t D&D-like.

Anyway, to the point of this post. In the wake of the release of the 5e PHB, wrathofzombie posted a whole bunch of 5e sub-class options. One of those was the Oracle. Flavour-wise, I always liked the Oracle. I also liked the Summoner. Those two, I think, are the two flavour-ful classes that aren’t really represented in 5e. So, with the Oracle in good hands, I decided to hack the Summoner for 5e. Here we go.

The Summoner – A Sorcerous Origin for 5e. (PDF, hosted on Google)