24 April, 2019

What Playing 5th Edition D&D Feels Like To Me

[I specify "to me", because I am not you, so I don't know how it feels to you. It clearly feels pretty good to quite a few people. If it feels great to you, that's awesome. I'm not attacking you, or trying to change your mind.]

[Also, below, "5e" is not in any way a DM. It is the rules system, nothing else. "Me" is myself as a player or DM, either one.]

I need to go through a door into a room where I need to solve a problem. There is a box outside the door with 68 specialised tools all jumbled together. I can take one into the room with me. I rummage through the box and pick a screwdriver, thinking "this seems versatile".

5e: "That's not 'versatile'. That tool is for driving quarter inch flathead screws, little mister, and that's all!"

Me: "Uh.. ok?"

I go in the room, and there are two boards partially nailed together. I need to either finish nailing them together, or separate them. I flip the screwdriver around and start hammering the nail with the handle.

5e: "Whoa down there, tiger! As stated earlier, that's a screwdriver, not a hammer. You need to turn that back around and hold it by the handle."

I turn the screwdriver back around, and start using it to pry the two boards apart.

5e: "Hey now! No can do, MacGuyver. That screwdriver is for driving screws. I mean, it's right there in the name, see? You had plenty of opportunity on the other side of the door to pick a hammer or a crowbar, but you chose the screwdriver."

I try to put the screwdriver through my head. It does not work, because my head is not a screw.

Me: "Screw you, 5e."

26 October, 2018

Why They Put Trails Through Forests

So, with Win10 they send me pictures every few days. Some of them are pretty great.

This one is a perfect example of somewhere your DnD character does NOT want to take their horse. Not just riding, but you don't want to try to walk it through there either. All those holes and shadows that look like holes will all look like holes to your horse, and even if your horse is trained so they won't freak out in a forest (they freak out in forests because, basically, they have one eye on each side of their head) they might baulk at going anywhere near them. The other possibility (the worse one) is that they try to jump over them onto what they think is solid ground, but almost certainly isn't, at which point they will almost assuredly break either their ankle or their leg.

"That doesn't look so bad" - someone who doesn't ride horses

If your character is looking at this, and they have a horse, they'll have to either find a way around or take their horse back and leave it somewhere. Unless neither the player nor the character have any experience with horses (this is pretty basic), in which case they can try to make their horse (not them) roll a wisdom save (determination) to go through it, and then a dexterity save to not break at least one leg (based on how badly they failed the save). The horse is going to have to keep making that dex save. How often depends on the ground, but potentially as often as every 5 minutes.

18 October, 2018

In The Mouth of Madness

This is the passage Sam Neill reads as the walls of the world tear open, and he watches Elder Horrors rush toward reality. I mostly put this here so I won't lose it.

In The Mouth of Madness
“Trent stood at the edge of the rip; stared into the illimitable gulf of the unknown, the Stygian world yawning blackly beyond. Trent's eyes refused to close. He did not shriek, but the hideous unholy abominations shrieked for him, as in the same second he saw them spill and tumble upward out of an enormous carrion black pit choked with the gleaming white bones of countless unhallowed centuries. He began to back away from the rip as the army of unspeakable figures, twilit by the glow from the bottomless pit, came pouring at him toward our world.”

10 October, 2018

Corken for the Holidays!

From Norchester down past Biggleswade, and throughout most of East Anglia, the wild corken is a favourite addition for every family’s Holiday table. It’s easiest to find them near rivers and lakes, and the best hunting is from early September to mid October.

Corken: 1-2 HD, AC as leather, grab with tentacles for 1d4 crushing damage. If grabbed, automatically stab with legs next round for 1d4 damage. Tentacles only do damage on the round they hit, as they first tighten their grip and latch on. Small targets are immobilised by these grasping tentacles, but human-sized victims are basically unhindered. However, they will only be able to attack the Corken with small weapons, since it is STUCK RIGHT TO THEIR FREEXIN BODY!

Corken have no eyes or ears, instead using their extremely powerful and minutely discerning sense of smell. They smell with the suckered surface of their large tentacles, so if the tentacles are removed somehow, they will wander around aimlessly for a while, then give up on life and just sit down.

The traditional old-fashioned preparation of the Holiday Corken is on the left. On the right is the more recent style, where the tentacles have been removed and prepared separately, usually as a fried treat as well as an ingredient in other dishes. A few people in larger cities, such as Cooperton or Frippert, now put tentacle in the stuffing, but this is frowned on by all but the middle and upper classes.

Also, upon doing an image search to see who had done that top pic that had been sitting in my drive forever, I discovered somebody else had made a different (though obviously similar) creature for 5e. Here is their blog/campaign diary: skaldforge.wordpress.com. And here I thought I was the only one this odd. Well, not really.

14 January, 2017

Stupid Monk Tricks

If you have monks in your DnD game, here is a Stupid Monk Rule! The idea is that it’s a self-contained add-on ability that balances itself internally, so there should be no need to restrict it by level, etc.

Combat Balance, or Karma Strain, or Chi Balance, or whatever funky monk name you want to call it.

When the monk does damage in a fight, they can arbitrarily add bonus points to their damage. But! They must achieve b a l a n c e. During the fight they have to apply an equal amount of MINUS POINTS to their damage. If they don’t, then a turn later they will take that many D6s in damage to themselves, as their muscles pop and snap from the strain. If someone casts something like Lesser Restoration on the monk before the turn is up, this will quiet their muscles and they won’t take the damage, but the monk will still have Failed to Achieve Balance (covered later). Something like a Cure Wounds spell won’t help at all, though it will have its normal effect on the damage after the monk’s muscles have snapped.
Let’s Have an Example!
Jovaell the Monk is in a fight again! She hits Bandit Leader for 3 points of damage, and is deeply unfulfilled. She is a professional, so she knows this hit is wimply, and decides to DRIVE HER IRON WILL INTO HIS BODY! She adds.. Hmm.. 7 points! Yes, she feels that’s prudent, and adds 7, doing 10 all together. Bandit Leader falls to the ground, the victim, ultimately, of his own poor life choices.
But now Jovaell must achieve BALANCE!
She strikes Lackey X, and hits, doing 4 points of damage. She subtracts 3 from that, doing a total of 1 point. She MUST do at least one point of damage with the hit, or she can achieve no balance with it. 7-3=4. She still has 4 points of her earlier bonus damage she needs to make up for before she has achieved balance.
To her dismay, Lackey X drops in front of her, the victim of Nabonidas the Assassin. He seems pleased with himself.
Jovaell the Monk, in case you forgot
She looks around quickly, and sees one last opponent still stands. She hits Lackey Q and rolls 9 points of damage! She wants to take 4 from the 9 she did, and kick the poor sod for 5 points. Sadly, he had taken an arrow to the knee earlier, and only has 2 hit points left. She drops him, and applies those 2 points to her … Chi Strain? Muscle Balance? Whatever you want to call it. Regardless, she now has 2 points left, and the fight is over. If she still has those 2 points a turn later, she will take 2d6 damage to herself, probably with her muscles writhing under her skin in disturbing anime fashion (that’s up to you). 1d6 damage for each point, see?
She now has a few options. Her friend Cormac the druid is senile, and has nothing like a restoration spell prepared. She sees a nearby goat. She has never liked goats. Not since the Goat Incident. She hits the goat and rolls an exciting 6 points of damage! Unfortunately for everyone concerned, it was an Old Goat, and had but one hit point to give up. To achieve any balance, the goat would have to take at least 1hp in damage anyway, so she still has 2 points of Chi Strain (or whatever) to unload, even though the goat shatters like a chair in a bar fight from that 6.
She will hit Nabonidas. She will make it up to him later, and he probably deserves it anyway. Assassin, amiright?
She cracks him a good one for 5 points, subtracts the 2 that was building up dangerously, hurting him for a total of 3pts, and has ZEROED OUT HER YANG WITH HER YIN! YAY!
She Failed To Achieve Balance during the fight. She has avoided physical damage, but her Inner Calm (or something) pays the price. She gets no combat xp from that fight. Or maybe just half. Up to your DM.

09 September, 2015


My KotOR Characters. Of Course.
I'm experiencing some pretty serious DnD burnout.

I love spending time with my friends, and I love the fantastic worlds that I get to visit. A majority of my problem, I think, is the long-running basic assumption that DnD characters are largely greedy self-serving bastards. Having this as a core premise has always been a downer for me. Even though it can be amusing from time to time, the constant exposure to this paradigm has, I think, really worn me down.

I remember trying to play Dark Side in KotOR for a while, and it didn't last long at all. I laughed a couple times, but got bored with it quickly. It made the game dreary and unfun for me.

I tried to play Renegade Shepard in Mass Effect 2. Again, a few laughs. When the crew had concerns about spacing Grunt if he went crazy, and Shepard just shrugged and grinned after making a point about having extra crewmembers, I thought it was hilarious. But I stopped playing that save and went back to my paragon version soon after. I didn't like Bad Shep, and didn't care what happened to him. Playing him felt like a tedious chore.

I tried playing a Skyrim character who broke laws, went to jail, killed innocuous bystanders, etc. Same result. Lame. Quit playing that one before level 15. When my son was playing and decided to get turned into a vampire and eat people at Vampire Castle, I tried to keep watching, but lost all interest.

I know all these examples are from video games, and involve me trying to play 'the bad guy' rather than being enmired in their midst, but I guess my point is it's just not in me. It's not fun for me. Rather than getting any emotional relief from parodying or lampooning assholes by being an asshole, I get my relief by smashing the assholes. I'm kind of afraid that this means I'm simple or naive, but I can’t deny that it all adds up to me beginning to experience my chosen hobby as another source of depression rather than a refuge from it.