Friday, September 26, 2014

Painlessly Keeping All the Rolls Behind the DM Screen

Last weekend I attempted to run the first part of Lost Mines of Phandelver, but didn't get much further than three combat encounters as the PCs ran around the woods being attacked by goblins.

There were two many reasons why the game did not progress very far. First, it was a pretty large group of eight players, some of which were very new to the game. Secondly, I was the only person with a flat surface on which to roll dice. Everyone else was sitting on the floor or in sofas without coffee tables. Because of this, I decided I would roll for everyone, in the true old-school tradition.

It was awful.

There isn't a lot of math or things to keep track of in D&D 5e, but when you are the only one doing any of the calculating, it’s all enough to turn your head into mush. Compound this with having to ask players for if they are proficient in something, what is their ability modifier (no, that is your ability score, I need the modifier) and if they have any other relevant bonuses or features. I would end up rolling a die, staring at the result for a while, my brain freezing up, and then just make a call based on if it was a low or high roll.

When I went home that night I told my wife “never again” would I run a game like that.

But yesterday I had some time on my hands as the internet cut out at work, so I figured I’d solve the problem rather than just give up on that mode of play. My solution is a small chart that resembles the charts that power DC Heroes, which compares the ability of the character to the challenge of the task they are performing and then gives a target number.

This is an untested system, but the target numbers are based on percentages that I’m comfortable with. A d20 is just a d100 broken into 5% increments, after all.

The rows on the left refer to the general skill of the character in regards to the action he is performing. For example, a fighter is trained in hitting an enemy with a sword, but a wizard would be untrained in doing the same thing. The wizard may even be poor at it if the weapon is a bastard sword or other device that requires martial training. A high level fighter, or one with the archery fighting style would be an expert when firing an arrow at a goblin.

The columns on the chart reflect the relative difficulty of the action. For example, hurting a goblin with a sword may be an average action. Hurting an ogre with the same sword may be hard and hurting an ancient red dragon would be an epic action. Hurting a horse or other defenseless target would be easy.

The intersection of the skill level and challenge level is the target number for a d20 roll. Any roll of the target number or better succeeds. There is no match or numerical bonuses. If you think the character should get a special bonus or penalty, just shift the challenge level accordingly or use the advantage mechanic.

Damage is rolled using the dice from the PHB +2. This keeps combat moving very fast and attempts to account for bonuses from modifiers. Critical hits do maximum damage and critical failures cause something bad to happen, like dropping the weapon or falling prone.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Simplifying Weapon Proficiencies for D&D 5e

When creating several fifth edition characters this last weekend, it came to my attention that certain race and class combinations cause the proficiencies section of the sheet to get completely bloated with all the different kinds of specific weapons that can be used.

For example, the list of proficiencies of an elven wizard is as follows: Longswords, shortswords, longbows, shortbows, daggers, darts, slings, quarterstaffs and light crossbows.

While this may look like a flavorful list, it also is a complete mess. Combine this list with the default character sheet that labels sections at the bottom and players could be forgiven for thinking this is an inventory list, not skills.

Not all classes are as complicated with weapon proficiencies, but the elf wizard has me wanting a better way.  Seems to me that the most obvious solution is that which most of the classes come close to using, which is to use the basic weapon categories. Most of the combat-focused classes can use both simple and martial weapons, while all other classes can use simple weapons or a specific list.

This awesome character sheet by John Grumph suggests that weapon proficiencies should be restricted to Simple and/or Martial weapons. I like that. It's simple and no longer relies on old ideas of that a wizard or cleric can or cannot use. I would go one step further to include a Finesse weapons proficiency for classes like rogues and bards.

Below are my recommended simplified weapon proficiencies for 5e PHB classes:

Barbarian: All weapon types.
Bard: Simple weapons, finesse weapons, martial ranged weapons.
Cleric: All weapon types.
Druid: Simple weapons.
Fighter: All weapon types.
Monk: Simple weapons.
Paladin: All weapon types.
Ranger: All weapon types.
Rogue: Simple weapons, finesse weapons, martial ranged weapons.
Sorcerer: Simple weapons.
Warlock: Simple weapons.
Wizard: Simple weapons.

I see no problems with allowing elves and dwarves to keep their racial weapon proficiencies. I'm even considering to allow Dragonborn to be proficient in all weapon types in my home game.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Truth or Dare as D&D Adventure

Want to play Dungeons and Dragons but have absolutely nothing planned? Instead of straining your bullshit muscle or spend the night rolling on a million random tables to generate an adventure, just have the characters gather in a tavern and play a good ol' fashioned game of Truth or Dare. Everyone knows how to play Truth or Dare.

Players will role play the game of Truth or Dare, challenging the other characters to perform foolhardy tasks or divulge dark secrets. This is an excellent time to get to know the characters, practice role playing and get the players into some pretty sticky situations.

Players can come up with their own truths or dares, but in case they are stuck on what to ask, consult the following tables. In instances where a dare involves going to another location, hand-wave all travel, dungeon crawling, or any other boring logistical details and get right to the good stuff.

Some of the dares can lead to benign consequences, while others will get the whole party in a heap of trouble. It's up to the GM what amount of trouble each dare causes.


  1. What's up with your family? 
  2. What would you do if you had all the gold in the world? 
  3. If you had to kill one person in the group, who would it be? 
  4. Do you have any secret talents? 
  5. If you had one day to live, what would you do? 
  6. What's the stupidest thing you've done in front of a crowd? 
  7. What's the biggest lie you ever told? 
  8. What is the cruelest thing you've ever done? 
  9. If you could have anything in the world, what would it be? 
  10. If you had a ring of invisibility, what would you do? 
  11. Who was your first love? 
  12. What is your guilty pleasure? 
  13. Who in this room would be the worst to be trapped in a dungeon with? 
  14. What fear keeps you up at night? 
  15. What is your best physical attribute? 
  16. Have you ever used recreational alchemy? If so, what substance? 
  17. What prejudice do you harbor? 
  18. What is the worst thing about being an adventurer? 
  19. What is the longest you have gone without taking a bath? 
  20. What is the worst crime you've ever committed? 
  21. Do you really think your patron god cares about you? 
  22. If you came across a room filled with infant hobgoblins of a blood-thirsty tribe, would you kill them or leave them alone, knowing that they would grow into killing machines? 
  23. Would you make a deal with a devil if you had the chance? 
  24. What would make you give up adventuring? 
  25. Have you ever prayed to Mord to kill someone? 
  26. Have you ever taken advantage of someone weaker than you? 
  27. What's the strangest thing you've eaten? 
  28. Have you ever had to give up some great treasure? 
  29. Have you ever patronized a brothel? 
  30. Are you afraid of dying in a dungeon in the middle of nowhere, never to have your body discovered until some other adventurer stomps over your bones or you've turned into some ghastly undead creature devoid of humanity and fueled by the shallow breath of chaos? 

  1. Kiss a medusa on the lips. 
  2. Take something from the superintendent of Vornheim's bed chambers. 
  3. Drink this expired health potion. 
  4. Challenge the toughest guy in the tavern/town/immediate area, to unarmed combat. 
  5. Run naked through the nearest nunnery. 
  6. Clip a hill giant's toenail. 
  7. Swallow a baby otyugh whole. 
  8. Hump the statue of Saint Luca, the Beneficent. 
  9. Buy some Ghoul Fingers from a dealer in the shady part of town, grind them up and smoke 'em. 
  10. Steal one piece of gold from a dragon's hoard. 
  11. Tell a half-orc to lighten up. 
  12. Swim in the River Carpathian, which is known to be filled to the edge with leaches. 
  13. Go to the middle of town and yell "I can only be aroused by goblin feet!" 
  14. Climb to the top of the church steeple. 
  15. Get hit in the face with a magic missile. 
  16. Be buried alive. 
  17. Steal a skull from the Tomb of the Magi. 
  18. Purchase the nastiest Drow pornography you can find. 
  19. Get elected to the Council of Elders within one week. 
  20. Kill a garter snake and have a wizard cast the spell written on it's skin on you without knowing which spell it is. (Random cantrip.) 
  21. Act like an owlbear for one hour. 
  22. Write a love letter to the Count of Lumeria. Make it really juicy. 
  23. Kiss the next person the party encounters. 
  24. Pat the closest halfling or gnome on the head. 
  25. Pickpocket from a member of the city guard. 
  26. Write a piece of poetry about being an adventurer and read it out loud. 
  27. Go into the latrine and summon the Bloody Hag. 
  28. Drink a shot of green fey essence. 
  29. Take the ruby eye out of the demon statue. 
  30. Climb the thousand steps of the wizard's spire. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Slimes and Oozes of the Southern Claw

This was created as part of Displacerclaus in July.

An unrealistic and uncreepy representation of a Smile Slime.

The following list of slimes and oozes are native to the Southern Claw region, southwest of the great city of Vornheim. However, many enterprising and foolhardy scholars, game hunters and merchants have begun to export them to other lands. Most of these exportation attempts result in disaster and a subsequent infestation as the slimes have their way with indigenous creatures and populations.

The attributes of the slimes are minimalist with the intention of being easy to plug into your favorite D&D-type game. Only the aberrant characteristics are mentioned, so you will need to include any attributes that account for generally slimy and oozy behavior in your game of choice.  

  1. Face Sucker Ooze: Init: +5; Atk grasp +4 melee; AC 10; HD 1d8; MV 50’, climb 30’; Stealth +4; Resistant to slashing and piercing; Vulnerable to fire and cold; Align: Neutral. This small but deadly ooze will stalk its prey for hours for a chance to take it by surprise. A successful melee attack results in the ooze firmly attached to its target’s face, creating a powerful vacuum between it and the target. Target must make a successful DC 15 Strength check to wrest free of the ooze. Each turn the ooze remains affixed, the target must make a Constitution check or suffer 1d6 damage. After three accumilative failed Constitution checks, the vacuum will become powerful enough to pull the target’s innards through its mouth, instantly killing it.
  2. Gelatinous Polyhedral: Init: +X; Atk pseudopod +X melee (1dX); AC 10+X; HD 1dX; MV 5+1dX’, climb 5+1dX’; Resistant to slashing and piercing; Align: Neutral. Choose a polyhedral die at random. Ooze takes the rough shape of that die. All instances of X in the stat block are equal to the number of sides on chosen die.
  3. Mint Jelly: Init: +5; Atk pseudopod +4 melee (1d8); AC 12; HD 2d8; MV 15’, climb 15’; Stealth +5; Resistant to slashing and piercing; Vulnerable to cold; Align: Neutral. Native to jungles and temperate forests, this slime stretches its body along the moss and fern covered ground and emits a sweet, refreshing scent in order to attract its prey. The slime can cover an area approximately 20 feet in diameter, but it will wait to strike until at least one target is in the center of its reach. Any creature within 10 feet of the mint jelly must make a saving throw vs Poison or be surprised when the jelly attacks.
  4. Silver Slime: Init: +6; Atk pseudopod +6 melee (2d6); AC 16; HD 4d8; MV 50’, climb 30’; Resistant to slashing, piercing and cold; Vulnerable to fire and bashing; Align: Neutral. This slime resembles a living mass of mercury, having the ability to emulate slashing and piercing weapons with its pseudopod. When threatened by multiple attackers, the silver slime will take a shape not unlike a sea urchin, hitting any melee attackers who fail a Dexterity check with 1d10 of piercing damage.
  5. Night Slime: Init: +5; Atk bite +2 melee (1d4); AC 10; HD 1d4; MV 60’, climb 40’; Stealth +6; Resistant to slashing and piercing; Vulnerable to fire and light; Align: Neutral. These nocturnal slimes are a nuisance for farmers and herders as they tend to prey on livestock in the darkest hours of the night, feeding by sucking blood through a long pseudopod tipped with a primordial mouth. Night slimes are solitary hunters but large colonies can be found in caves. When attacked, the Night Slime will emit a pheromone that will provoke any other slimes within 100 feet to swarm. Most colonies house 3d20 night slimes.
  6. Mile Slime:  Init: +6; Atk pseudopod +6 melee (1d8); AC 14; HD 6d8; MV 30’, climb 30’; Resistant to slashing and piercing; Vulnerable to fire, cold and lightning; Align: Neutral. The mile slime is an efficient predator that covers the most amount of ground by stretching itself into many thin pseudopods radiating from a central location. It is most likely that an encounter with a mile slime will begin with an attack from only one of the whip-like arms, but another arm will appear in 1d6 rounds. Additional arms will continue to appear, often from many different directions, one after another until the hit points of the slime are depleted. At that point the arms will retreat, but it is unlikely that the slime itself is dead as only a small portion of its body has been present for the fight.
  7. Stuffing Slime: Init: +5; Atk grasp +4 melee; AC 10; HD 1d8; MV 50’, climb 30’; Stealth +4; Resistant to slashing and piercing; Vulnerable to fire and cold; Align: Neutral. A relative to the face-sucker ooze, the stuffing slime has evolved a similar hunting technique with a decidedly opposite means of killing its prey. With a successful hit, the stuffing slime will fix itself to the face of the victim. A successful DC 15 Strength check is required to remove the slime. On a failed Strength check, the slime will begin to stretch its body into the cavity of the victim’s lungs and stomach. A DC 15 Constitution check is required for every round that the stuffing slime remains on the victim. After the third accumilative failed Constitution check, the victim’s insides have been filled and death occurs.  
  8. Over Ooze: Init: +0; Atk pseudopod +4 melee (1d4); AC 10; HD 1d8; MV 15’, climb 15’; Stealth +5; Resistant to slashing and piercing; Vulnerable to fire and cold; Align: Neutral. Not much unlike your standard primordial ooze in composition, this slime has developed a specific hunting technique that sets itself apart. The over ooze will stretch its body into a net-like matrix upon the ceiling of a cave or dungeon. It then lowers hair-thin filaments to act as sensors. When two or more creatures are under the over ooze, it will drop from the ceiling, entangling all below it in an area up to 30’ in diameter. A DC 15 Strength check is required to break from the ooze. Bladed weapons provide a +2 to the escape attempt but the restriction of the net prevents the blades from harming the ooze enough to remove hit points. An attacker must be free from the ooze to deal damage.
  9. Smile Slime:  Init: +0; Atk pseudopod +1 melee (1d4); AC 10; HD 1d6; MV 30’, climb 30’; Resistant to slashing and piercing; Vulnerable to fire, cold and charm spells; Align: Neutral. These small blue slimes are friendly and helpful in nature. In fact, helping sentient beings appears to be their primary motivation and it is believed by some monster ecologists that the slime literally feeds from the approval of higher beings. The slime takes a vaguely oval shape with what appears to be the shape of a grinning humanoid face protruding from its back. Upon encountering a sentient being, the smile slime will become docile and subservient. The face will most closely resemble its last “master” and the slime will be able to learn to communicate using facial expressions used by its master after 1d4 weeks in his service. Smile slimes are slow to engage in violence and will often find creative ways to help their master should he be threatened or wish harm upon another.
  10. Blink Ooze: Init: +0; Atk digestive acid +8 melee (1d8); AC 12; HD 8d8; MV 5’; Resistant to slashing and piercing; Vulnerable to fire; Align: Neutral. Typically used as a security measure by paranoid wizards, a blink ooze will fill the entirety of a room but will remain invisible and intangible until triggered by any magic spell. Any subsequent spell casted will return the blink ooze to its pocket dimension. The intention in installing a blink ooze is that a spellcaster and any companions will be trapped in the middle of the ooze, slowly being digested by the creature, unable to perform the gestures needed to cast a spell to banish the ooze. Persistent effects from magical items do not count as spells in triggering the blink ooze.