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That is one freaky looking dude!

That is one freaky looking dude!

This is a handy little ne’er-do-well I came up with the other day to thwart my players. It worked wonderfully well and turned a hum-drum encounter into one that was surprising and dangerously fun.

Take a regular kobold with typical statistics. Add two heads, one on either side of the central head. They breathe fire and the kobold is immune to fire. It can do everything a normal kobold can do AS WELL AS breathe fire once per round from each head in a fifteen foot line.

They are incredibly weak due to being a kobold, but they can really pack a wallop! In the encounter in which I used them, the party wizard scoffed at a room full of twenty kobolds. With a flick of bat guano into the chamber he ignited a fireball that left all of the kobolds incinerated, except for the seven 3-headed kobolds, who in turn got to retort, and show said wizard just what that felt like. Evil grin.

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but-when-i-do-i-play-advanced-dungeons-dragonsThe joke is that this newly released updated edition of the worlds first and foremost role playing game is the one we will die playing. Like any good joke there is some truth and longing in it as well. I wish we could have one version that continued to grow and evolve over the years (at a sedate pace, mind you) rather than the abrupt and jarring breaks of the past three ‘editions’ of Dungeons and Dragons. This Fifth edition seems to be the one capable of doing that, if it is even a desire or plan of the publishers of the game, which I know not.

Irregardless, while so far this edition is proving to live up to the qualities it aimed to attain, there is always room for, and a need for minor tweaks or improvements to the rules to better mesh with the playstyles of each individual group of players. Thus are house rules created, and below is a list of rules we have adopted for our game group.

1. Critical hit and miss tables – These have been published previously on the blog –LINK–. Fifth edition codifies the idea of critical hit and misses, by giving double damage on a 20, and always hit, and making a natural 1 always miss. That of course does not go far enough. My tables, written around 1983-84, when I was twelve, involve much more gory, embarrassing, and weird affects and were voted into use by due process over the course of many games, many editions, before being finally settled upon once and for all. Any rumours that I may have ‘skewed’ the results of the vote are pure hearsay.The dm gets one vote, and the players get one vote as a group. Ties go to the dm. Perfectly fair process. Moving on…

2. Natural 2 – I have coined a phrase – “natural 2, the only roll worse than a natural 1.” The reason being that a player will still probably miss if they roll a 2, but it lacks any of the pizzazz of a critical fail. So I have a house rule, even less official than the critical hit and miss tables, that on a natural 2, if they miss, they still have humiliating, embarrassing, or weird things happen to their character, just without any actual game mechanical affects. This rule is adamantly opposed by the players (and what player wouldnt jus thate the whole idea of it) so I have to slip it in subtly. One method is to use a natural 2 as a doorway to getting the character to give into the characters flaw, which is a new personality trait in this edition.

3. Skeletons resist piercing and slashing damage.

4. Inspiration point – These can be used to re-roll any roll, rather than to grant advantage or whatever the official rule may be. Why not? Stop being so uptight about things. Also the bard can store a second inspiration point on occasions, but in that case “he is like a race car with its engine running in the red.” Or at least that is what happened the other night.

5. Mounts – If a land vehicle is a horse, then is a water vehicle a hippopotamus? Yes.

6. Hit points – Characters roll for HP at each level but if they roll poorly they may take 1/2 the maximum die roll instead. It’s more or less what everyone did anyway.

7. No multi classing. I have no explanation for this other than a certain “swordlock” who will remain unnamed. It would have been a TPK, it should have been a TPK, and dammit it WAS a TPK, I don’t care what that “survivalist” says.

This is an evolving document, both because I might have forgotten some rules, and because more may come along as the final two core rulebooks are released (and beyond!) and because our temperament may change over time. When I began this article I thought there would be more, but instead we get short and sweet.

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More minions of the Dark Priest

More minions of the Dark Priest

Just saying, not by popular demand, but by dm fiat, skeletons resist slashing and piercing damage. (Half damage, rounded down.)

And no, force damage does not count as bludgeoning, good try.

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Critical Hit Table

Critical Hit Table

Cleaning out my garage this weekend I made an amazing find: my house rules binder from my gaming youth. This set of tables was compiled around 1983-1984. I was twelve. It was based off a few magazine articles, as well as a chart (using percentiles) by the big brother of a friend. We were the “second generation” of role players to arrive on the scene after our older siblings paved the way. One of the innovations I learned from those Old Ones was the idea of creating “Campaign Binders” that contained all manner of new rules and details about the ongoing games being played. Critical hit and miss tables were one of the first things I created and inserted into my binder.

Penalty Roll (Critical Miss) Table

Penalty Roll (Critical Miss) Table

These tables were used continuously for the entirety of our AD&D careers, covering hundreds of natural 20’s and 1’s up until 1989, when we stopped playing regularly and my game binder became lost amidst the onset of adulthood. In the years since, I have toyed with many other systems for Critical hits and misses, and in that time I have switched from calling a natural 1 a Penalty Roll to calling it a Critical Miss. (Never liked fumble.) It just sounds better that way. Here is a previous two part article I wrote about using critical hits and misses in Fourth Edition. (Those rules never quite had the “pizzazz” around the table I was hoping for, and led to us eventually moving back to Pathfnder Hit and Miss cards.)

The fact remains that these tables are the best I have ever used, and although they might seem harsh (what with all the limb-lopping) they provide combat with a gritty, dramatic, and visceral component that is hard to match any other way. They have been revised over the course of hundreds of hours (just look at all the exceptions) to create an unparalleled system for capturing the chaotic violence of mortal combat.

A special note should be made to point out that in the 30 years since these tables were originally concocted, role playing games have gone from meat-grinder factories to heroic deeds of legend, and that these tables should be used not with an eye toward permanently handicapping the players — one limb at a time –- but towards making each combat riskier and bloodier. Taking recovery into account is important as well, and magical healing should be considered for the re-attachment of limbs and other permanent injuries that may affect player characters. Possibly with the addition of a nasty scar. These charts are not for the faint of heart. Just don’t make it too easy…

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House Rules

House Rules

OK this idea just occurred to me, so it is a rough draft, but it attempts a new approach to healing that bridges the conflicts between ‘realism’ vs. ‘gamism’ and between magic vs. natural healing.

Between battles, parties with magical healing capable classes (i.e. clerics) can heal their party to full HP during a short rest, using their magic healing. Without magical healing, no hit points are regained while adventuring. Only magic or time and rest can heal injuries. During a battle, all normal healing spells and magic applies.

The great thing about this re-setting of hit points during an encounter is that HP no longer become a resource to be spent and saved, but return to their natural place as an indicator of the amount of punishment an individual
(or swarm) can take and/or has taken.

There are plenty of other resources to be managed and honestly, getting people to rest between encounters has never been a problem, just the opposite is usually true. Therefore, with a cleric, druid, paladin, or whatever, hand-wave the fiddly in-between encounter healing and they just do it. Now encounters can be based on a full strength party rather than an estimate of how ‘spent’ they will be when engaging.

Other mechanics could be added to limit the amount of times a cleric can do this in-between magic. Like a low level cleric may only be able to do it one person per level per hour or something similar. Possibly druids or bards even might be limited to curing fewer times, or less than 100 percent. Or maybe every time a healer uses the skill, they lose a point of strength (they take on the pain like an alien chick in an old episode of Start Trek) until they are forced to rest. These types of rules however ruin the basic premise that the party starts every battle at full hp, and when a character is not at full hp they are in fact injured, and a night’s rest will not cause gaping wounds to heal.

This is all just theoretical at this point.

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Laying out my stack of tiles for some serious construction.

Laying out my stack of tiles for some serious construction.

For the past two Fridays, we have been using the Dwarven Forge Game Tiles with our miniatures to play d&d. We happened to be going through an urban murder mystery at the time (Murder in Baldur’s Gate) so this took a little modification, but the past two weeks have shown how much awesomeness the Game Tiles can add. I am lucky to have acces to such wonderful paraphernalia for our game, including the Dwarven Forge Game Tiles, Reaper miniatures, and other good stuff picked up over the years. The last two items though, both coming out in the past year, has definitely taken our game to a new level of cool.

It was thanks to the exemplary player, friend, and all around great dude Dave, who made this possible. I was on sabbatical at the time and he stepped up to take part in the Kickstarter for the tiles when I was unable due to a chronically deflated bank account. My players are all great, and constantly work to make up for my own inadequacies. Isn’t that what a good life is all about?

Player built the dungeon, I added appropriate encounters.

Player built the dungeon, I added appropriate encounters.

It looks like this will be quite a challenging dungeon! Fortunately reason prevailed and we went on to play the adventure at hand: Murder in Baldur’s Gate. In this episode the heroes have just defeated the demon who slew the town’s protector, and are beset upon all sides by those whowant to fill the power vacuum left in the good duke’s wake. They get offers from the Silver Spoons, the Flaming Fists, and an attractive lady known as Rihanna. Each group requested a midnight meeting in a tavern known as the Dragoneye. When they arrived, they realized it was a set-up, and were attacked by the Silver Tea Spoon Thugs on one side, and the Pirates of the Flaming Fists on the other. It was their alliance with the owner of the tavern Rihanna herself which allowed them to prevail.

Throw down at Rihanna's

Throw down at Rihanna’s

That was last week. This week for Halloween I wanted to spookify it up, so I took some inspiration from the classic adventure Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh and rebuilt the mansion’s first floor. Their goal, was to help out Rihanna, who was a champion of the poor outer district. The fisherman’s wharf area was having many of their children kidnaped – 30 in the past 3 weeks. She feared that even more will be at risk during the next day’s children’s festival, and asked the heroes to find out what was happening. All signs pointed to the crumbling house overlooking the sea at the top of Saltmarsh Lane.

Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh

Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh

We didn’t get to finish the adventure but it was a ton of fun.There were traps on practically everything, and a few good treasures were found. They also had a run in with a Frankensteinian Flesh Golem. After spoiling for a fight all night, they quickly ran away from the monster. They did save 5 kids before we had to call it a night. Maybe next year!

Jambunathon pummeled

Jambunathon pummeled

Punched up, knocked down, and dragged out of the room by the monk, Jambunathon faced the mighty flesh golem alone. While everyone else wondered what the heck was he thinking?!?! It was fun.

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This is Twinkie Pie.  He is a double alpha male cat that wont let ANYONE touch his paws - except a certain Ginger who can do whatever she wants and he is ok with it.

This is Twinkie Pie. He is a double alpha male cat that wont let ANYONE touch his paws – except a certain Ginger who can do whatever she wants and he is ok with it.

This week we played dnd and it was fun. We are playing the newly released “Murder in Baldurs Gate” as an into into a Heroes of the Lance Dragonlance campaign.

We were walking through town, Baldurs Gate, on a day of celebration when the God of Assassins was finally killed by the Duke who is also the city’s patron and most famous resident. It was a festival day and the heroes (we are calling them that though its accuracy is dubious at best) took pat in games of skill and chance. The bard perfomred an excellent rendition of Arry Pooter.

Much archery was loosed, some excellent jousting was perfromed, with the final round between the dragonborn paladin on her giant sugar-bear mount versus the elf ranger on her Acherai – a four legged flamingo mount. I cant even remember who won, but it was epic. Oh yes, each of them did excellently and won a pair of the duke’s daughter’s scarves. It was due to a wardrobe malfunction that the paladin was thrown by the ranger in the last round.

Finally, the group engaged a group of 7 thugs in a mock battle. This meant attacking to subdue only, which meant some spells and weapons were unavailable, like crossbows and magic missiles for example. The party won, and then the free beer was released to the crowds in giant barrels around the town square. City nobles came up on stage including Fancy Filosi, Jambunathon Boehner, Bitch Baconnel (short for Bitchell), and world famous Duke Bo Robama.

They tried to give some speeches that were topical and cross referenced our own current ongoing struggles with government in a way that inspires dialogue, but the players wanted one of that, they wanted to bust more heads, so I obliged. Crossbowmen opened up on the crowd from second story windows while the thugs from earlier started kill9ing an wounding panicked civilians in a wanton slaughter. Meanwhile Duke Bo Robama was fighting for his life against a crazed old man with a short sword who called himself Darth Yoda.

The battle is crazy and when the old man is killed, the duke explodes and turns into some disgusting monster all tooth and claws. It ends up swallowing the gnome cleric, then the evil wizard who went in after her, before being killed by a combination of attacks from Jillian the highly skilled weapon mistress and the paleolithic tribal duo Male Human Bard and Female Elf Ranger. The kender spent the entirety of all three battles looting corpses as they fell. She also “found” a divan at one point, which aided the heroes in their fight against the thugs.

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