Friday, September 15, 2017

Urban Arcana: Tools of the Trade

This one'll be short, it's been a hectic week in the game dev mines.

The section on modern tools is somewhat harder to design than I expected. We have a lot of crap that we mess with from day to day, and picking and choosing what qualifies as an actual tool proficiency is difficult at best. Still, I think I was able to narrow it down to a few categories to start, with leave to shrink and grow as needed.

Still, there's a huge gulf of knowledge between a layperson and a true master with a given tool, so I felt the length and breadth of modern tool knowledge should also have associated augmentation. As always, first drafts, feedback is welcome, et cetera, ad nauseum.

Cars, vans, and small trucks are included under this category. Alternately, you can be proficient in driving motorcycles and other similar equipment. Most people can drive a car with minimal training, so this proficiency includes practiced handling, diagnosing simple issues, and performing minor maintenance such as changing the oil or testing the battery. 
The real marvel of the modern world, computers control almost every aspect of our daily lives. Though anybody can use basic functions of a computer, actual proficiency includes diagnosing issues, installing or replacing hardware, basic coding, and realizing that the median state of an Internet browser is not a sliver of window beneath a dozen malware toolbars. 
Heavy/Construction Equipment
While a layperson might not know the difference between a backhoe and a bulldozer, a person with this proficiency can correctly spot and operate most common construction equipment. You are also trained in the operation and handling of large hauling equipment, from semi trucks to heavy machine transports. This proficiency is separate from automobiles due to the vast difference in handling requirements, as well as the specialized training that goes into operating the mechanisms associated with the vehicle. 
Small Aircraft
With this proficiency, you are capable of piloting simple small aircraft such as a prop plane or a weather chopper, as well as perform minor maintenance. You also understand the assocaited flight jargon and can communicate with air traffic control to help direct aircraft. 
Small Naval Craft
This proficiency includes everything from marsh boats and speed boats to small sailing ships. You can articulate nautical charts and perform basic navigation, as well as help guide other vessels into or out of harbor. You do not require this proficiency to use basic water craft, such as jet skis or the like.

To facilitate greater understanding, I've also created a feat to go along with it.

Advanced Training

Prerequisite: One modern tool proficiency 
Effect: You increase your Intelligence score by 1. You choose one modern tool with which you are proficient. You are considered a master with that tool and can operate equipment with a greater learning curve or with restricted access. 
Automobile mastery allows you to either drive extreme performance vehicles or understand advanced mechanics. You will require mechanics' tools to perform standard jobs, or a facility with appropriate lifts to perform advanced repairs and upgrades. 
Computer mastery allows you to perform feats of hacking and hardware modification. You must have access to appropriate programs, platforms, and connections in order to hack into devices. 
Heavy/construction mastery allows you to either coordinate and manage large construction or transportation projects for large organizations, or to understand heavy machine mechanics. You will require appropriate tools and facilities to perform associated repairs. 
Small aircraft mastery allows you to operate advanced aerial vehicles such as passenger planes. Alternately, this mastery can give you the knowledge to operate military aircraft. 
Small naval craft mastery gives you the knowledge required to fashion your own water craft given tools and materials, as well as navigate by primitive means. 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Initiative Junk

I've spent some time over the last week working on the Birthright adventure module and Urban Arcana, but also cranked out some stuff based on various discussions I've had with people regarding initiative. As many know, it was a hot topic in the D&D fanbase a couple months ago when Mike Mearls put out his Greyhawk Initiative variant. I'm personally not a fan of it, but whatever works at your table is fine.

I've fired a few ideas at the wall here, and there will also be a link up on the Completed Projects sidebar (see its new location on the right side). Neither has been road-tested yet, and both are inspired by other endeavors.  Counting Initiative is based off an idea presented by the 2nd Edition of Hackmaster, which goes into frankly absurd levels of articulation that are not well-suited to a 5E table. Group Initiative is just an update of old D&D rules, and I'm hardly the first person to suggest it.

Really, this packet is something I put together for my groups as an easy reference, but figured they could be useful as a discussion piece. I wanted to run some sessions for testing these at some point. Counting Initiative in particular seems like it could be troublesome in a lot of ways, particularly as it relates to tracking spell durations (something 5E has thus far avoided apart from "concentration" and "start/end of next turn"). Spells with such durations would basically be added to the initiative count under this system and "tick" every time their number comes up.

Group Initiative is the simplest and least intrusive, and probably the way I'd actually suggest groups do things to keep the moment-to-moment activity going. It would suck if you have a group that can't decide what it wants to do on the best of days, though.

Anyway, have fun with it. Constructive feedback is welcome.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

GM Diary: Shadow of the Demon Lord: The Beginning: Colons: Review Edition

Last night tied off the first adventure I ran for my Wednesday night group, which was established to test drive Shadow of the Demon Lord. Our group consisted of four players and one GM (myself), using Roll20 as our medium given the distance between all of us. The adventure took four three hour sessions to complete from start to finish.

The game intrigues me because, well, I kind of like grimdark worlds. In that way, the world of Urth* comes across like the Warhammer Fantasy setting without the heavy doses of self-parody inherent in the latter. You'll find most of the typical fantasy elements with a few tweaks, but it's all fairly familiar to RPG veterans.

*The one part of the setting that merits an immediate grimace.

Character creation is straightforward and takes all of a couple minutes if you know what you're doing, which is good -- it is really, really easy to die as a "level zero" character, which is how everyone starts out. The group ended up being comprised of an extremely hairy goblin who was obsessed with collecting spoons, a dwarf who was more beard than anything else, a clockwork that was approximately centaur-shaped and quite large, and a halfling (not a core race, interestingly enough, compared to the goblin and clockwork) conscript who was turned out of the army with exactly 1 copper piece to his name.

The group enjoyed a bit of consideration as to their origins during the session zero where creation took place, and then dove into the action. I set their game in a fictional (as far as the setting goes, anyway) city on the edge of the Bone Marsh, in the setting's "default" land, the Northern Reaches. That is to say, in the core rulebook, it is the region that receives the most detailed description, a la Faerun's Sword Coast.

Support your local Roll20 art providers!
The game does a good job of giving groups an incentive to find work. There is a mechanic for living expenses, which are paid between adventures and are shorthand for how well you intend to live. For a group of down-on-their-luck misfits in a city at the ass-end of nowhere, halfway between a thriving but expensive port city and the Crusader States, it was easy to motivate them into taking a job.

After a courier job where they stole back a bottle of swamp-folk medicine from a mischievous buckawn who appropriated it as its own, the players were entangled in a family dilemma. This turned into a strange conspiracy where decadent nobles ended up being involved in as-yet-mysterious operation to distribute an elixir purportedly able to turn humans into wild and barbaric beastmen.

No, not that one.
The players seemed to have fun, and at the conclusion of the adventure they advanced to level one. In SotDL, this is the point where you select your novice career from among four basic options: magician, priest, rogue, warrior. This spread of fantasy archetypes should surprise you only if you've never heard of the fantasy genre before in your life. As mundane as this sounds, later levels let you earn more classes (or "paths" in SotDL vernacular), and the Expert paths in the core book alone number sixteen alone. The Master paths, selected at 7th level, number sixty-four in the same book.

My group fell into the four classic roles as they played, somewhat predictably if you happened to know the players and what they gravitate to (I have, for over a decade in three of the four cases). The clockwork became a warrior, the goblin a rogue, the dwarf a priest, and the halfling a magician.

In this game, conflict resolution is easy and keeps complexity to a bare minimum. SotDL uses a system of boons and banes that act as d6 modifiers to the result of d20 rolls, and boon/bane dice can cancel each other out. Multiple dice of the same kind apply only their highest result, not the total of all results (so your best result is generally going to be 26 before ability modifiers, no matter how many boons you have).

This is about as complicated as it gets, which I don't know is a good thing for groups accustomed to lots of crunch. SotDL is somewhat less crunchy than even D&D 5E, and I was frequently checking back for things I should be having the players do while scenes played out. Even spell resolutions are easy, in contrast to some fairly complex D&D ones. There are professions, but no weapon proficiencies, no armor proficiencies, and no saving throws. Everything pertinent to your character is derived from your three main attributes (Strength, Agility, Intellect), and every challenge roll is an attribute check of some kind using those three stats.

The game runs very smoothly, and most of your complexity comes in figuring out character builds and managing Corruption and Insanity (assuming you do things to accrue them). I worry a little that the relative lack of crunchiness is a turn-off to my more seasoned players, but so far that isn't the case.

If I were to cite a potential complaint, the small number of novice paths makes veterans not want to pursue similar careers even if they end up having different expert/master path plans. There's precious little that differentiates characters early on, so characters of the same path are nearly identical in all respects unless their ancestry is radically different (a goblin warrior would play differently than a Size 2 clockwork warrior, but not appreciably different than a human warrior). Later levels help out, as you get to pick some defining abilities and training within your path(s), but you might be waiting a while depending how long your early adventures take.

It's fortunate that this group went one each into the four novice paths, so this is probably the ideal scenario. All in all, I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes, and playing more sessions of it. It's a fun system, if you don't like rolling dice very much and having a fairly high mortality rate if you do something dumb or make a bad roll.

And, you know. Being corrupted or going insane.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Urban Arcana: Backgrounds

Backgrounds are a feature of 5E that I really enjoy. They're flavorful enough to help create a story for your character, add mechanical benefits in the form of starting equipment and proficiencies, and flexible enough that you can assemble your own background pretty quickly if none of the existing options appeal.

For Urban Arcana, I wanted to make sure existing core 5E backgrounds still had a place, but introduce new ones that were more appropriate to the world with which we are familiar. Naturally, there's going to be some overlap or similarity, but the difference between a fantasy survivalist who contends with a savage wilderness where magical beasts lurk and a modern day survivalist who uses academic know-how to overcome situations is enough to possibly warrant a variant.

The most crucial difference, though, is the tools of the trade. A white collar worker is just going to have a different set of talents than an elven aristocrat fresh off the teleport pad from the magical world of your choice. Even if both are members of the wizard class, the latter might have training in courtly dance, poetry, and heraldry, while the former wrote a program to manage their spellbook on their enchanted smartphone.

There's also the question of weapon proficiencies. I wanted to allow the existing backgrounds to help determine what sort of weapon proficiencies, archaic or modern, the character's class gave them. A fighter from a fantasy world knows how to use all kinds of swords, polearms, whips, bows, and axes. A fighter from the modern world might be an enlisted soldier, trained in firearms, combat knives, and situational weapons such as a trench shovel.

Point being, the world in which a character grew up would help determine what it is their class taught them to use. To wit, the backgrounds I present below are all considered "modern backgrounds" and thus modify class proficiencies. Basic 5E backgrounds would instead give the standard "archaic" weapon groups.

Of course, I might end up retooling the weapon and armor proficiencies entirely. We'll see.

I haven't done any of the ideals/bonds/flaws charts for these yet, as those tend to come later and are pure fluff that many experienced players ignore anyway. They'll be in the final product. I'm also taking suggestions for other backgrounds to make; I need to do some crime-focused one to mirror the base criminal background, as well as an academic one that mirrors a sage/scholar.

Blue Collar

The virtues of hard work don't always pay off, but a strong work ethic and a dedication to family and community are the hallmarks of the blue collar worker. Whether it's a factory job, a skilled trade, or even labor, the blood and sweat of blue collar society greases the wheels of modern civilization.

In the modern magical world, most blue collar workers are humans born into that lifestyle, but non-humans also make up a significant percentage of that demographic. Dwarves, orcs, bugbears, and others may find themselves well-suited to such jobs.

Skill Proficiencies: Insight, plus one Charisma skill of your choice (Deception, Intimidation, Performance, Persuasion).

Tool Proficiencies: One set of modern tools of your choice, plus either automobiles or computers.

Modern Proficiencies: You are proficient in the modern version of your class's standard weapon proficiencies.

Equipment: Civilian identification, a set of modern tools with which you are proficient, a multitool, a pre-paid cell phone, a set of common clothes, and a wallet with $100.

Feature: I Know a Guy

One of the strengths of the blue collar community is a strong networking with other trade workers. Even if you don't know how to do a particular thing yourself, you can always reach out to your friendly contacts to find a skilled tradesperson in the field you need within any modern settled area.


The world is full of people who avoided, or for some reason couldn't, devote themselves to a particular trade or career. Maybe you just hated the idea of continued education, having been bored to death in school to begin with. Perhaps circumstances kept you out of the system and unable to succeed, through reasons outside of your control.

It's not that you lack talents -- far from it. You simply don't have a focus, and it is this lack of focus that affords you great flexibility, at the cost of society's brand of success.

Skill Proficiencies: Any two Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma skills of your choice.

Tool Proficiencies or Languages: You are proficient either in any one modern tool set, one modern instrument, or any one modern language.

Modern Proficiencies: You are proficient in the modern version of your class's standard weapon proficiencies.

Equipment: Civilian identification, a pocket knife, a one-way bus ticket, a set of common clothes, and a wallet with $50.

Feature: Flexible Training

Part of the problem with never focusing on a specific skill, but being very quick on the uptake, is that it is easy to forget how to do something once your brain switches gears. After completing a long rest in which you read up on a technical manual, watch a detailed online course, or do some hands-on training with an expert in a field, you can forget one tool proficiency, instrument, or language in which you are proficient and replace it with the relevant tool, instrument, or language of your choice.

Once you use this feature, you cannot do so again until at least 30 days have passed.


You never could stay in one place for long. Maybe someone had it out for you, or you lost everything at the tables in Atlantic City. Perhaps it was due to spending all your time and money on the inside of a bottle.

Well, the world really got more complicated, because now there's magic and really weird folks walking right alongside the rest of us.

Skill Proficiencies: Perception, Survival

Languages: One of your choice from modern languages, as well as "hobo glyphs."

Modern Proficiencies: You are proficient in the modern version of your class's standard weapon proficiencies.

Equipment: Civilian identification, a pocket knife, a backpack, a first aid kit, a set of threadbare common clothes, and a wallet with $5.

Feature: Invisible to Society

Subconsciously or otherwise, people tend to overlook the downtrodden and the homeless. Prejudice and societal scorn form a cloak around you, one that makes it easy to appear innocuous in large groups of people.

You are skilled in blending into the background of crowds and urban environments. So long as you are not dressed in a manner that draws attention to you, or in a location where a stranger would stand out, you can move from place to place without drawing attention to yourself. Mechanically, this can manifest as disadvantage on ability checks made to notice you in public.

Law Enforcement

In the real world, there's an axiom about how no one wants a cop around until they need one. This remains true in the modern magical world, but a large portion of that has to do with the fact that laws and procedures do not yet account for the arrest and prosecution of dragons and wizards. A few very confused, very twitchy cops with body cameras can turn a bad situation worse when a magical being is involved.

Nevertheless, you have a background in law enforcement. Perhaps you left the force after peeking behind the curtain and seeing what was really going on, or becoming disillusioned with police corruption, endless crime, or low pay (or perhaps all of the above). Alternately, you could still be employed as part of a special, off-the-books task force dedicated to enforcing laws on a very strange populace indeed.

Skill Proficiencies: Athletics, Investigation

Languages: One of your choice from modern languages.

Modern Proficiencies: You are proficient in the modern version of your class's standard weapon proficiencies.

Equipment: Civilian identification, a light pistol with no mods, 24 light pistol bullets, high-powered flashlight, a set of common clothes, and a wallet with $150.

Feature: Friend on the Force

Whether or not you are still part of the agency, you know at least one person with access to files, goods, or information that you can call for a favor. Some possibilities include a court clerk, the precinct's medical examiner, or a police informant. You may contact this individual for help in their particular field, but they will often request a favor from you in return.

Once you use this feature, it is considered bad manners to do so again before 30 days have passed. Asking for help too often may cause the contact to break off ties with you, or get both of you in trouble with their superiors.


Every country in the modern world has a standing military, though the training offered varies wildly based on the defense budget allocated for recruitment and outfitting. You were part of a major military branch, such as the U.S. Marines, the German Heer, or the Israeli Defense Forces, with commensurate training and outlook.

You might have completed officer training or did a tour (or several) as an enlisted recruit. Regardless of what your role in the services was, you are now entering a very different world.

Skill Proficiencies: Athletics, Intimidation

Tool Proficiencies: One set of modern tools of your choice.

Modern Proficiencies: You are proficient in the modern version of your class's standard weapon proficiencies.

Equipment: Military identification, a set of military dress, a set of common clothes, a half-dozen surplus MREs, and a wallet with $100.

Feature: Military Rank

You possessed a rank while in the service and can reach out to others in your unit or who served in the same division as you for favors or shelter. While it is highly unlikely that you can get military grade requisitions as part of this favor, you might be able to use this contact to get your hands on surplus that would be bound for civilian resale anyway.

If world events become dire, it is possible that your military may call you back into service. It is generally a very serious legal offense to ignore this call without sufficient cause.

White Collar

Whether you went to law school and joined a firm as a junior partner, or worked your way into the corporate system through hard work and more than a little brown-nosing, the white collar field is your home now. A cutthroat industry of office politics, crushing bureaucracy, and possibly some long hours looking busy at a desk is probably not how you imagined earning your keep, but it pays the bills.

Skill Proficiencies: Investigation, Persuasion

Tool Proficiencies: Computers

Equipment: Civilian identification, a set of business attire, a set of common clothes, a key to your apartment, and a wallet with $200.

Feature: Part of the System

Being part of the system is a blessing and a curse when you're involved in the modern magical world. Chances are high that you have a primary care physician, a mediocre health plan, a modest place to live, and a savings account. You can sign up for most services and take out credit lines with a little bit of work and a few hours on the phone.

Of course, this also tethers you to a world that doesn't really appreciate one voice in the hundreds of millions of voices. Creditors will pursue you, coworkers will recognize you, and your fingerprints (perhaps even literal ones) are all over government databases. It's hard to break free, but maybe you don't want to -- being able to go to the doctor is a privilege few can afford these days.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Urban Arcana: Firearm Weapon Properties and Some Spells

Modern firearms don't neatly fit into even the suggested guidelines in the DMG, so I am stretching out a bit into new mechanics in the form of weapon properties. This design had to consider the following points:

  • A property might need to be broad enough to cover similar properties of entire groups of firearms.
  • It also needs to be simple to remember.
  • It also needs to not break the hell out of the game.

That said, there's a lot of reasons firearms supplanted the archer, the knight, and the pike. Their incredible killing potential aside, it's really all about a relatively light amount of physical prowess required to kill a whole lot of dudes way over there. So it's okay that guns are dangerous in 5E Urban Arcana.

Anyway, here's a rough draft of what I've come up with.

An automatic firearm chambers a new round without needing to remove one's finger from the trigger, and can be used to perform two additional attack modes. When you make an attack using an automatic firearm, you can opt to perform a three-round burst. This attack grants you advantage on the attack roll, but consumes three rounds from your ammunition. You cannot perform a three-round burst if you do not have at least three rounds remaining in the firearm's magazine.
You may also attempt to perform a spray with a full magazine. The entire magazine is consumed when you make this attack. In lieu of making attack rolls, you may force a number of creatures in a cone with a range equal to the weapon's medium range to make a Dexterity saving throw or suffer the firearm's damage. The number of creatures you can affect is equal to the number of bullets in the magazine. The DC for this saving throw is 8 + your Dexterity modifier + your proficiency bonus.
 Most weapons are not automatic by default, and this property is typically bestowed upon a weapon by using a weapon modification kit. Automatic firearms are illegal in nearly all civilian environments, and owning one without sufficient clearance is grounds for arrest, confiscation, and/or fines by Earthly law enforcement entities.
Weapons with the loud property cannot be used for their traditional attack without causing a great deal of noise. Whenever you make an attack with a loud weapon that is not benefiting from a silencer or other means of suppressing noise, the sound of the attack can be heard up to 1000 feet away in open ground, or 300 feet away inside a typical building. 
Unlike the more punitive loading quality, you may make as many attacks as the weapon has in its magazine before you must use an action to reload the weapon.

Of course, a trained firearm expert is going to be able to reload a weapon rather quickly. Thus I also include a feat:

Rapid Reload
Prerequisite: None. 
Effect: Your Dexterity score increases by 1. You may replace the magazine on any weapon with the reload quality as a bonus action rather than an action.

Now, there's something to be said for some weapons not being able to load quite as fast as that. Loading up some kinds of shotguns might take you longer than the couple seconds implied in a bonus action (I know I'm inviting myself to be eviscerated by someone saying they can do it faster, but I am willing to eat crow on that), but like I say in the design goal bullet points, I'm trying to be broad and still reasonably accurate here.

Same with the Loud quality. I'm completely spitballing on how far away you can hear a gunshot. If you're in an open desert in the dead of a still night, you can hear gunfire from quite far away.  I leave those ranges open for correction, but incredibly loud firefights do provide some impetus to get close and dirty with your magic sword against the bugbear mafia when there's a god-baby with an apocalyptic scream sleeping in the crib upstairs.

That may or may not have happened in the old d20 Modern game I ran. Just saying.

Other things I may need to consider are ammunition type, since shot is different from slug which is different from sabot... you see where this rabbit hole leads. I need to be careful to remain true to 5E design goals and not turn firearms into an abyss of corner cases and specialty rules.

I've already got a bunch of weapon mod ideas for them and that's going to be bad enough.

As a bonus, I've converted a couple of spells so far from the old rules and introduced one new spell that I used in my old campaign (silver was important for overcoming damage reduction since magic weapons were still incredibly rare and being smuggled in from the magic world).

Burglar's Buddy
2nd-level illusion

Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 120 feet
Components: V, S, M (the cover of a camera lens)
Duration: Concentration, up to 10 minutes

You suppress the functions of electronic or mechanical alarm systems and sensors in a 15 foot radius centered on a point within range. The affected systems include, but are not necessarily limited to, motion detectors, pressure sensors, laser grids, and video cameras.

Cameras continue to broadcast the last thing they saw before the spell was cast in the area, but this spell does not create a visual "dead zone" if the camera itself lies outside of the range of the spell.

1st-level transmutation

Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Touch
Components: V, S
Duration: Instantaneous

You touch a device that contains electronic data, such as a computer or flash drive. All data upon that object is immediately and irrevocably erased.

Steel to Silver
1st-level transmutation

Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Touch
Components: S, M (a silver object about the size of a fingernail)
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 hour

You touch a single weapon, 20 arrows, 20 crossbow bolts, or a single magazine of bullets. For the duration of the spell, the weapon takes on a silvery sheen and strikes as though it were crafted of pure silver without sacrificing any of its durability or penetrating power.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, you may affect one additional weapon as outlined above for each spell level above 1st.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Pre-generated Characters for the Fantastic West

At a local home-convention run by industry coworkers, I occasionally get tapped to run RPGs for convention goers. About four years ago I ran a smash and grab dungeon crawl/card game using a slimmed down D&D and some treasure cards I made. It was called Dwarves: Conquerors of the Infinite Dungeons, and after some missteps with the treasure card mechanics (leading to fierce competition rather than cooperation for the incidental prize at the end) I opted for something a bit more cooperative for following years.

Two years ago, I instead ran Adventures in the Fantastic West, a fantasy western using 5th Edition D&D as the chassis and the gun rules in the DMG. With D&D mysticism and a pile of six-guns, the players had a ton of fun with the slapdash setting I threw together for the game, where a fantasy society expands outwards and runs headlong into a buried empire that the natives tried very hard to put down in their ancient history.

This year I've been called upon to run another game, so I'm going to run Return to the Fantastic West with a new batch of pre-generated characters. It also helps as a test bed for some mechanics I'm working on for Urban Arcana, so it's well-timed. Tonight I quickly whipped up the characters I'm going to let the sign-ups pick from, with an eye towards being fast and loose with the D&D rules and mixing in some altered class mechanics.

These were generally built with fun in mind and not min-maxing, so you'll see some odd choices and spell picks in the interest of ease of use for newcomers to D&D. This isn't the place to excoriate me for not playing to the meta. Power gaming is boring to me.

You'll note a few of the following bits herein:

  • Characters were generated using the standard array and don't utilize feats (they're only 3rd level).
  • The Firearms fighting style is simply the Archery fighting style, renamed
  • The paladin can smite with their shotgun, and their Oath is pseudo-custom.
  • The warlock's pact weapon is the Devil's Right Hand, a hellish revolver.
  • The rogue can always sneak attack with their seventh shot.
  • The ranger is using the Revised Ranger UA
  • The cleric is using the Life domain, but using the setting's "Order of the Golden Caduceus" secret society as a backdrop.
  • I'm loosely basing the Deadtracker's hunting rifle off of the .44 Winchester, but couldn't find a reliable source for how many cartridges it could hold before needing a reload. I guessed five. I'll keep looking for info and ask my Western historian friends when I can.
  • It should also probably be heavy, disallowing the halfling from using it without suffering disadvantage, but I'm letting it slide because it's cool.

Some day I may even flesh this out into an actual setting, but it's got enough issues and tough-to-tackle subjects that I might not try it. The evil undead empire underneath the Fantastic West could very easily be misconstrued for "spooky Indian burial ground" and other such tropes with unfortunate implications, when it isn't intended that way.

Anyway, enjoy the pre-gens.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Urban Arcana: Ballistic Baggage

While working on my Urban Arcana stuff, I've been considering the (re)introduction of the ballistic damage type. The DMG appendices referencing firearms list has them dealing piercing damage, which is fairly appropriate for the abstraction of 5th Edition combat. I can't pretend my layman's knowledge of modern firearms would stand up to professional scrutiny, but fortunately 5E combat doesn't concern itself with the stopping power of a specific gun/ammunition combo.

In d20 Modern, the ballistic damage type was its own thing, separate from the usual bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing physical damage types. There's something to be said for attaching a new damage type so that rider effects can be placed on it, without needing to heap on piles of conditional text.

That's a little vague. Basically, what I'm saying is that I could introduce spells, magic items, and technological gadgets that improve or provide resistance against ballistic damage without needing to say "piercing damage sourced by firearms from categories X, Y, and Z" every time I need the conditional effect. It could also help provide granularity for certain kinds of modern protective gear (such as certain styles of ballistic vests that are good for stopping bullets, but not necessarily knives).

Of course, there's some baggage involved with introducing a new damage type outside of the ones already provided. We've already got piles of them. It may warrant a general guideline with monsters and encounter building to say that if a monster is immune or resistant to non-magical bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage, it's thereby inferred that they are also resistant to non-magical ballistic damage.

My working documents are going to make the assumption that ballistic damage is a thing. My revised firearms tables will also take this into account, though they're still going to be grouped into fairly broad categories. The last thing I need is an internet argument with strangers over just how much better gun X is than gun Y of the same model, because frankly I don't know guns super well and 5E doesn't need that level of granularity.

That said, even the DMG's firearm damage is gonzo. Chances are extremely high -- with very valid justification -- that a 1st level character is going to be taken from full HP to zero with a single shotgun blast, not to mention a high-powered rifle. Encounter design should be handled judiciously for such campaigns, of course.

Anyway, I'm curious what others think. Am I missing something obvious with introducing a new damage type?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Urban Arcana: Barbarian Path of the Streets

Among the archetypes Wizards introduced in their Modern Magic UA was the City domain for clerics. I was pretty fond of this idea, as an avid World of Darkness (and Werewolf in particular) player throughout the late 90s and early 2000s. It's very Weaver-esque, which I thought was a much more interesting conflict for a chronicle than the bog-standard Wyrm minions.

That said, I thought the concept of city spirits could be expanded to other classes, and thus was born the idea for the Path of the Streets -- a barbarian possessed by a local neighborhood spirit whose mood and powers change based on how the community thrives.

As always, first drafts, no playtest, yadda yadda constructive criticism et cetera.

Path of the Streets

The streets of dense urban centers can, after years of powerful emotions from the residents, develop their own spiritual guardians. Only dimly-sentient, the spirit tends to reflect the prevailing attitudes of the district in which they dwell. A harbor-side warehouse district, forever slick with the blood of victims of the mob that controls it, may shelter a violent and hateful street spirit. Conversely, a poor but honest inner city neighborhood whose residents make the best of their circumstances and support the virtues of community, education, and brotherhood can spawn benevolent street guardians.

Barbarians, as people with an already powerful emotion that gives them supernatural strength, are magnets for these spirits. Those who follow the Path of the Streets are conduits for their respective spirit. When you select this path, choose a community or neighborhood in an urban or suburban environment; this location becomes the source and home of your possessing spirit.

Righteous Force / Wrathful Brute

When you join the Path of the Streets at 3rd level, the spiritual possession is nascent and shows itself in subtle ways. You might not even realize the spirit is present within them at first. The exact nature of the spirit is contingent on the state of the neighborhood in question, and a spirit can be redeemed or corrupted based on actions within the community. Your Dungeon Master determines the state of your street spirit at a given point in time.

Repeatedly funding, encouraging, and participating in community revival projects make the spirit benevolent. In these cases, you may use Righteous Force while raging, giving allies advantage to attack any enemy you successfully strike in melee until the end of your next turn.

Fomenting fear, intimidating residents, or encouraging the abuse of a neighborhood's resources or community will turn the spirit violent and hateful. When this is the case, you instead become a Wrathful Brute, dealing psychic damage equal to your Strength modifier to enemies adjacent to creatures you strike in melee.

Pillar of the Community

Also at 3rd level, when you join this path, you are recognized as a local resident of import within your spirit's neighborhood. You have advantage on Charisma ability checks when dealing with community residents, and can always find a safe house for you and a number of allies equal to your Strength modifier. Locals will be positively inclined toward you, though whether this is out of genuine appreciation or fear is contingent upon the state of the spirit and community itself.

One with the Streets

Upon reaching 6th level, the spirit's possession becomes more overt, granting a preternatural sense of urban or suburban environments, defined as anywhere with paved streets and at least one building of four or more stories.

You may spend 1 minute in contemplation while standing or sitting on pavement and allow the spirit within you to attune to the area, making it a sort of home away from home. For the next 8 hours, you gain advantage on Insight, Intimidate, Investigate, Persuasion, Perception, and Survival checks made in the neighborhood, and can use an action to disguise self at any time.

Community Service

At 10th level, you may directly call upon the spirit of the streets to aid you in battle. You may use a bonus action to cause a structure or local feature within 10 feet of you, such as a wall, street, stack of cinder blocks, exposed pipe, or even an overgrown community garden to spring to life and assail a target you can see within 30 feet.

You may elect to use this aid offensively, gaining advantage on attacks against the targeted foe, or use it defensively, causing any attacks against you from that opponent to suffer disadvantage. This effect lasts until the end of your next turn.

Urban Colossus

When you reach 14th level, the spirit of the streets within you allows you to perform feats of incredible strength. For the purposes of lifting, carrying, or throwing objects, you are treated as though you were Gargantuan (thus, a barbarian with a Strength of 20 can carry 2400 pounds, and push, drag, or lift 4800 pounds). You deal triple damage to artificial obstacles and structures, such as barricades, walls, and doors.

You may also pick up and throw objects or creatures as heavy as 4000 pounds -- about the weight of an average sedan -- with a range of 30 feet. Such attacks are made with disadvantage, but inflict crushing damage equal to 1d6 for every 200 pounds the object weighs. Medium or larger objects will leave difficult terrain in its wake.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Next Projects: Urban Arcana and a Birthright Campaign Module

Hey, folks! Not dead yet. Not for lack of the world trying, or anything. Buying a house is scary and intimidating. As is work crunch. For all this crunch, my abs don't seem any more defined, but I blame Thursday Belgian Beer night at the local watering hole for that.

Now that life is starting to back the heck off, I've had time to consider my next projects. My good buddy Brandes encouraged me to start work on an adventure module set in the Birthright setting, using my converted rules. Since Birthright doesn't easily lend itself to the "standard" module layout that Wizards established for 5th Edition thus far, it's proving an interesting challenge in module design.

Of course, due to the magnitude of that project, it's not going to be ready for some time. There's lots to go into something of that size, as you might expect. I'm taking some implied story hooks from the various Birthright products and expanding them into a full-fledged campaign arc/adventure book. It's proving to be very fun so far, and I'm making much better progress on it than I did on my ill-fated Ghostwalk conversion. Boo.

On the side though, I'm going to pump out some other stuff to keep my content from being too one-note (I'm sure casual readers are sick to death of me gushing over Birthright). Some comments have recommended checking out certain popular shows for inspiration and possible conversion, but what ended up happening was that I got a hankering for some urban fantasy. And sure, there are plenty of systems and settings already out there for it that use more narrative rules, but what I really wanted to see come back was Urban Arcana.

Some time back, Wizards themselves put out a little Unearthed Arcana entry, Modern Magic (PDF link), that was meant to evoke some of the fun of this sub-setting of the d20 Modern RPG back from the 2000s. I'd like to see more of it come back, but using some of the base classes from 5th Edition and not the (let's call them "controversial" and leave it at that) base classes from d20 Modern.

I think, with a few modifications and updates, it could be a great little project. I hope you enjoy the next few entries, I'm going to attempt to pick up the pace a little and hope that the homebuying process that is still ongoing doesn't kick me in the shins too hard.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Project Updates and General Rambles

Hey folks! After a few months picking at it like a fussy eater, I think I need to table my Ghostwalk work for now. It's not coming together quite like I'd hoped after multiple iterations, and long gulfs between when I can work on it are certainly contributing to its splotchy implementation. The perils of the day job, I fear.

Nevertheless, I am intent on doing more conversions, even if this one didn't pan out. After how well Birthright and Council of Wyrms went, I guess two out of three ain't bad. Unless you're being graded in American school systems, in which case that's still a D, depending on state.

For my next trick project, I am actually a bit adrift. I'm not sure what else is speaking to me, so I'll happily take suggestions. Something may spring out to me in the meantime, but really, the sky is the limit.

Recently I've also become enamored of Robert Schwalb's "Shadow of the Demon Lord" product line. To friends, I have likened it to Warhammer Fantasy without the heavy doses of self-parody and bombastic insanity that it enjoys. And well, as a child of the 80s and 90s, grimdark and edge are still part of my gamer DNA, and I don't know that modern sensibilities will ever really change that.

The fact that I enjoy it should not come as too much of a surprise to me, since I also loved his Song of Ice and Fire RPG that he did for Green Ronin. The games don't have much in common with one another, in terms of completely different focus and challenge resolution; in SIFRP you are navigating the political landscape of Westeros and spending most of your time in roleplay and intrigue, while in SotDL you start out as level zero commoners in a world on the brink of a demon invasion apocalypse.

I also find the system quite kitbashable into other things; I briefly fiddled with a Mass Effect RPG conversion over the course of a weekend, but one of those already exists using FATE. A canny traveler can still find it floating around in the archives of the internet in a post cease-and-desist world. I'm no fan of FATE, but the effort was sound before it got the hammer dropped on it. Let that be a warning to the enthusiast who uses the intellectual properties and copyrighted artwork of notoriously litigious companies. They don't care if you're doing it because you're a mega-fan, sadly.

Additional time investments of late include the Kickstarter for the Heroic Fantasy and Barbarian Conquerors handbooks for Autarch's Adventurer Conqueror King System. The teased content is rich and delightful, and though ACKS's adherence to ye olde systemes makes it challenging to rope groups into playing it, the expanded content offered by the new Kickstarter is going to be wonderful and I look forward to giving it a spin.

That's all I got for now. Since the day job is consuming most of my creative energies over the last month or so (and into the next one), it'll be a little light over here until, say, July. Not that it's been particularly busy or that I have a vast and demanding viewership or anything.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Magic of Torment

Like many, I am a huge fan of Planescape: Torment, which was recently released as an Enhanced Edition by Beamdog Studios.

Having finished my nineteenth playthrough of the game (really) with this new Enhanced Edition, which makes the game more bearable to play on modern PCs without needing to download a bunch of mods and get them working properly, I felt inspired to whip up a document that imports many of its unique spells into 5th Edition.

Playtesting is non-existent at this point, but if you ever do mess around with these, let me know what you think. Or if you see immediately bizarre formatting or balance issues. I tried to keep them in line with other spells of their level, but a few (Enoll Eva's Duplication and Tasha's Unbearable Derisive Laughter, for example) may be crazypants or not good enough.

In addition to the spells, I wrote up some flavor stuff in the front half of the document for giggles. And because I love the game. A lot. A whole lot. It's my favorite.

Hope you enjoy it. You can get it here, for free as always, as well as on the links bar.

Special thanks to Harbinger of Doom and Aryxymaraki for sanity checks and feedback. :)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Birthright Bestiary

Have another Birthright thing. I've been distracted by work and life, but managed to do this in my spare time between sessions agonizing over Ghostwalk mechanics.

I intend to expand upon it, particularly the Unique Creatures section (which at present features only a 5E conversion of the Gorgon). One of these days I may get over my hangup of using public domain art; even credited it feels like theft even if it's really not.

I may also have a serious grump-face when I see homebrew products featuring stolen artwork. There's too much of it out there. Harumph harumph.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Birthright Archetypes

I polished off and collected my first series of Birthright character options this evening and placed it up in the links bar for everyone to consume. Contained herein are the following options:

  • The Bloodline domain for clerics
  • The Knight-Errant archetype for fighters
  • The Umbral Warden archetype for rogues
  • The Mebhaighl Scholar tradition for wizards

As well as three spells usable by aforementioned spellcasters. Enjoy, feedback welcome, etc.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

New Dark Sun 5E in Links Bar!

I've put together my Dark Sun homebrew stuff into the Links bar for consumption, applying some feedback I received to the finished product. I do reference that you need Volo's Guide rather than reprinting that information in the document. I doubt WotC would have a freakout in the astronomically remote chance somebody there drives by this silly blog, but better safe than sorry and reprinting it is kind of a dick move.

Enjoy, additional feedback welcome as always.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Knight-Errant

Another of my Birthright archetypes in development is the knight-errant. I wasn't too thrilled by the Purple Dragon Knight/Banneret introduced in the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, and wanted to try a more Cerilian-themed archetype. Playing to the systems I converted and/or created is another added bonus.

Of course, fighter archetypes tend to be pretty annoying to design. They usually end up shackled to the idea of superiority dice or act like a hybrid of other classes. I wanted something that felt like a traditional knight, even if it could also be one that isn't necessarily a landed lord. With a bit of surgery, I sliced and diced bits of the Witch Knight I made into this, reflavored accordingly.

Plus, a squire. Everybody likes squires!


The knight-errant encompasses any titled warrior with a knowledge of the upper echelons of society. As representatives of their respective regents (or themselves regents) they can take the role of questing knights, warrior-emissaries, or bodyguards to prominent nobles.

Right of Sanctuary

When this archetype is selected at 3rd level, you may request sanctuary for you and your allies when visiting the abodes of titled nobles or other influential entities. The right of sanctuary is a long-respected Cerilian tradition, though certain human cultures (particularly the Vos) do not necessarily pay it heed. Your hosts may request service of you in exchange for their hospitality, but to do so is often considered bad manners.

Sanctuary includes lodgings (though they need not be comfortable) and food (though it need not be palatable) for a period of 24 hours. While under sanctuary, you are expected to obey the rules of the host and not disrespect or dishonor them in any way. Your allies are also subject to this expectation. Breaking the right of sanctuary is a grave insult to the host and word of the knight-errant's iniquity will follow them for a period of no less than one month (unless such word is prevented), during which time no other hosts will provide sanctuary.


As a titled warrior, you gain the service of a squire. This individual accompanies you on your travels and is primarily suited to tending your gear and steed, as well as helping you into your armor each day.

Your squire is of a race and gender of your choice, and uses the ability scores and starting equipment of a Guard (do not modify ability scores for race). You replace their proficiency bonus with your own (affecting their attack rolls, skills, and saving throws accordingly), and apply your proficiency bonus to their AC and damage rolls. Their hit point maximum equals their normal maximum or four times your fighter level, whichever is higher. When you gain an ability score increase through level advancement, your squire also gains an ability score increase to be distributed to your liking. Your squire rolls for initiative like any other creature, but you determine its actions and behavior.

If your squire is slain in battle, they may be returned to life normally, or you may petition a regent for a new squire. After a period of one month traveling with you, this prospective squire gains all of the abilities granted through this feature.

Armor Specialization

At 7th level, choose one type of armor (light, medium, heavy) with which you are proficient. While wearing armor of this type, you gain a +1 bonus to AC.

Mandate of War

Upon reaching 10th level, the knight-errant can call for special dispensation to levy troops. When the knight-errant attempts to muster armies as part of a domain action (whether as the regent or as a lieutenant) they halve the Gold Bar cost for mustering non-mercenary units.

When attached to a unit as a commander, the knight-errant grants the unit an additional +1 bonus on battle resolution checks.

The knight-errant, and allies fighting alongside the knight-errant, gain advantage on initiative checks.

People's Champion

When the knight-errant reaches 15th level, they inspire those around them to greater heights by virtue of their deeds and skill. As a bonus action, the knight-errant may grant proficiency with any one skill in which they are trained to any ally who can see and hear them until the end of the knight-errant's next turn.

Furthermore, the knight-errant gains proficiency in any one saving throw of their choice.

Strength of Arms

An 18th level knight-errant lives and dies by the sword in the name of the quest. Whenever the knight-errant of this level successfully strikes an opponent in melee, they gain temporary hit points equal to the better of their Strength or Dexterity modifiers. If the attack is a critical hit, you gain temporary hit points equal to your fighter level.

Designer Notes

The Squire is the answer to who is taking care of the horses and helping the fighter into their full plate armor every day. You ever try to put that stuff on? You're not getting into it by yourself even if you are pretty well trained at wearing and maintaining it. Best I could ever do is a mail shirt without help, and that was back when I was ten years younger.

Don't look at me like that. I was a young nerd, you think I didn't try to put armor on whenever I got the chance at various festivals and fairs?

The Squire could be a bit of a hindrance/extra annoyance to track in combat, as it is a fairly weak combat pet. Of course, if it dies under focused assault, you probably won't be getting a new one any time soon unless your party is capable of raising the dead.

Right of Sanctuary might have some redundancy problems.

Armor Specialization seems boring and stacks with the Defense fighting style, so it may need rethinking. But then, having something not-complicated is kind of nice. I left it open in case there were Dexterity-based knight-errants that wore light or medium armor (as could be the case with Brecht or possibly Khinasi knight-errants). There's some redundant wording in there as well (of course the fighter is proficient with all armor), but it might be worth calling out in the case of multiclassed fighters.

Mandate of War is mostly there for mustering and battlefield boosts, but the initiative advantage is a solid party-wide boost. It might be too good and I might need to pare it down to just the knight-errant. In fact, I'm almost positive I will in version two.

People's Champion really only comes down to two choices: Dexterity or Wisdom. Until Wizards starts stuffing additional monsters with Intelligence and Charisma saving throw abilities, they will remain the most common saving throws (up there with Constitution, with which the fighter is already proficient).

Strength of Arms isn't as punchy as some of the other 18th level fighter archetype abilities, but by this point the knight-errant's squire is a pretty reliable damage boost on a given round, provided it's with the party.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Birthright Interlude: The Bloodline Domain and New Spells

Taking a brief break from Ghostwalk to churn out some more Birthright content that I've been tinkering with on the side. Today I present the Bloodlines cleric domain, a religious sect that can be part of any faith whose adherents attach themselves to blooded scions as advisers, chroniclers, and bodyguards. Alternately, they hunt and slay blooded individuals in accordance with their god's ethos.

Naturally, this domain only works in the Birthright setting, and most specifically with the conversion I made.

Bloodline Domain

The Bloodline domain is available to any deity of Cerilia. Its exact tenets vary from faith to faith, but those who follow this religious doctrine are sought out for their expertise in matters of lineage and inheritance. Some are scholars of the divine bloodlines, and others are holy (or unholy) champions venturing forth to battle blooded foes.

The domain's mandate means that even clerics of opposing faiths and gods will meet to share knowledge and records of the scions they meet in their travels, or catalogue the affairs of powerful blooded entities, the awnsheghlien and fabled ersheghlien.

Bloodline Domain Spells

1st - amanuensis, detect divine blood
3rd - enhance ability, zone of truth
5th - clairvoyance, tongues
7th - death ward, locate creature
9th - blood boil, legend lore

Archivist of Lineages

Your clerical order is extremely proficient in the histories and relationships of noble bloodlines and keeps a quasi-religious text with them at all times known as the Archive of Lineages. Each cleric maintains their own copy of the Archive, which contains abbreviated family trees and major historical events regarding some of Cerilia's most storied families.

It is the duty of each Archivist to catalogue the affairs of scions they encounter, and expand their copy of the Archive. If the cleric's copy of the Archive is damaged or destroyed, their first priority must be to repair the book or create a new copy to take with them on their journeys. Without it, the cleric cannot prepare any new spells.

Bonus Proficiencies

When you choose this domain at 1st level, you gain proficiency in History. If you are already proficient in History from another source (such as being Anuirean) you instead gain proficiency in Persuasion.

You also gain proficiency in heavy armor.


At 1st level, you possess the knowledge of how to more effectively engage blooded foes. You gain a +2 bonus to damage rolls with weapon attacks against creatures with a bloodline score. Additionally, you have advantage on Wisdom (Survival) checks to track blooded individuals, as well as on Intelligence checks to recall information about them. Furthermore, you have advantage on saving throws against effects from a scion's blood abilities.

Channel Divinity: Blood Augment

When you reach 2nd level, you may use your Channel Divinity to boost the effects of a bloodline's power. As an action, you may choose one target within 60 feet of you that possesses a Bloodline ability score. For 1 minute, that target adds their Bloodline modifier to the result of attack rolls, skill checks, and saving throws. If you are a blooded scion, and your target either lacks a Bloodline score or their Bloodline score is weaker than your own, you may instead apply your own Bloodline modifier in place of the target's modifier.

Shared Glory

Starting at 6th level, when either you or an ally within 60 feet uses a blood ability, you and all allies within 60 feet of you gain temporary hit points equal to three times the Bloodline modifier of the individual activating the ability.

Divine Strike

At 8th level, you gain the ability to infuse your weapon strikes with divine energy. Once on each of your turns when you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you can cause the attack to deal an extra 1d8 radiant damage to the target. When you reach 14th level, the extra damage increases to 2d8.

Bloodline Transference

Upon reaching 17th level, the cleric gains special powers as they relate to the ebb and flow of bloodlines. By spending at least 1 hour with the corpse of a slain scion that has been dead for no longer than 1 week, the cleric may transfer that scion's Bloodline to a new unblooded recipient. This recipient must be present for the rite, and the departed scion cannot already be divested of their divine blood by another source (such as being slain by a tighmaevril weapon). The recipient immediately gains a Bloodline score of 11 with the same derivation of the slain scion. If the slain scion's Bloodline score was less than 11, the recipient's score is equal to that value. If the dead scion is later returned to life, they will do so without their bloodline!

This does not give the recipient stewardship of the scion's holdings or provinces, though the recipient may later attempt to lay claim to them as the "blood heir" of the departed. The ceremony of investiture must still be performed to formalize the transference.

The cleric may not use this ability more than once per week. Some faiths view this as a masked form of usurpation if used irresponsibly and will react accordingly.

Designer Notes

There's a few places I see improvement needed. Bloodline Transference is an "in-the-field" version of basic investiture mechanics, but comes very late in the domain's progression and thus I didn't see this as a huge danger. It's not a combat benefit, which may make this domain lag a bit behind in raw power compared to some others.

Also, Bloodbane's damage bonus doesn't scale well as-written, so I also tinkered with it adding the cleric's Wisdom modifier to damage. It still might not be good enough, so I am considering improving it at level bands (+4 damage at 6th, +6 damage at 11th, +8 damage at 17th).

Archivist of Lineages is a pure ribbon. I loved the idea of the wandering priest with the huge tome bearing the names of every noble family tree from Anuire to Vosgaard and having the sacred duty of chronicling every offspring, legitimate or otherwise. Whole adventures could arise from the need to learn the truth about a given regent's progeny, or urging (after first finding) a bastard scion to take up the mantle of rulership to vanquish a corrupt parent.

New Spells

These were made to support the above domain. There's also like a thousand versions of amanuensis out there. Mine's probably too stingy for a first level slot, so I'm leaning towards increasing its duration to an hour, adding it to the wizard spell list, and making it a ritual.


1st-level transmutation
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 30 feet
Components: V, S, M (a quill with a silver point worth at least 10 gp, plus adequate parchment or paper to complete the copy)
Duration: 10 minutes

By means of this spell, you may copy written texts from any non-magical book, parchment, or other written medium. The quill that is the component of this spell animates and rapidly transcribes the text as a perfect copy of the original over the course of the duration, completing one page per minute (up to ten pages per casting of the spell).

The spell cannot copy diagrams or illustrations, nor can it transcribe magical texts, duplicate spell scrolls, or create glyphs of warding. Where such banned items occur, only a blank space will be revealed in the copy.

Blood Boil

5th-level transmutation
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 60 feet
Components: V, S, M (a small vial of snake venom)
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute

This spell, created as a bane to blooded scions and awnsheghlien everywhere, ravages the body and cripples the victim's divinely-gifted abilities. Choose a target that you can see within range that is not undead. The target must succeed on a Constitution saving throw or suffer 5d6 points of fire damage and 5d6 points of poison damage as their blood becomes a burning toxin within their veins. If the target is a blooded scion, the damage is increased to 5d8 fire and 5d8 poison.

On the initial round that the damage is suffered, the victim cannot activate any blood abilities or use powers related to their divine heritage. At the end of each of its turns, for as long as you concentrate, the victim can attempt another Constitution saving throw to end the secondary effect.

Detect Divine Blood

1st-level divination (ritual)
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Self
Components: V, S
Duration: Concentration, up to 10 minutes

For the duration, you sense the presence and location of individuals possessing a bloodline within 30 feet of you. If you sense a bloodline in this way, you may use your action to pinpoint individuals with a bloodline of any strength, determining its derivation and relative strength (tainted, minor, major, great, true).

The spell can penetrate most barriers, but it is blocked by 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet or wood or dirt.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Ghostwalk is Hard, Y'all.

Converting this is a bear. Many of its conceits are mired in the systemic chassis of 3rd Edition and it's been difficult to extricate the bits I need from the setting and keep them remotely familiar.

I've had some successes. I think the basic idea of the Eidolon class is solid enough, though its abilities need significant work. I wanted to talk more about other bits I've changed over into 5th Edition.

What is a Ghost?

Unlike the standard ghost monsters, Ghostwalk ghosts are not completely undead, but certainly not among the living. When someone refers to a ghost in Manifest, they do not mean a shrieking spirit of the damned that withers all who behold it -- such creatures are unknown in Manifest, though undead such as wraiths and specters still haunt defiled burial grounds.

Rather, ghosts of Ghostwalk are a unique manifestation of the deceased's will to carry on. For reasons unknown, only the souls of humanoids can endure in this fashion; monsters, outsiders, and dragons are not governed by this cosmological law, and their souls either immediately depart this world or are part of their physical remains.

So You're Dead. Now What?

A ghost is considered a humanoid of its corresponding type, though it also gains the ghost descriptor. Certain feats, spells, and creatures have special effects on ghosts, or can only be used while you are a ghost. Ghosts obviously do not age, do not require food and drink to survive, and are immune to diseases.

A ghost does not necessarily need to sleep during a long rest though they may willingly enter a sort of torpor. However, every ghost has a compulsion they must satisfy during this period of time. Some may need to listen to a particular tune, behold a certain sight or person, indulge physical pleasures such as eating or drinking while fully-manifested, or haunt a particular location. A ghost that fails to do this at least once a week risks succumbing to the Calling, which drags them to the True Afterlife.

A ghost exists in one of three states: ethereal, incorporeal, and fully-manifested. They may transition through one or more of these states as they adventure or are affected by certain magic.

An ethereal ghost is formless and invisible to all but ethereal creatures or those with magic to see into or transpose themselves onto the Ethereal Plane. Ethereal ghosts can pass through unwarded solid objects, but cannot harm or be harmed by creatures on the Material Plane. Ethereal ghosts cannot wear or use physical equipment unless it is present on the Ethereal Plane or possesses the ghost touch quality.

An incorporeal ghost is weak in both realms, and is considered in a state of flux. Incorporeal ghosts can pass through objects as though they were difficult terrain, and has resistance against damage from sources on the Material Plane. However, all creatures save other partially-manifested ghosts have resistance against damage from an incorporeal ghost. Inorporeal ghosts cannot wear or use physical equipment unless it is present on the Ethereal Plane or possesses the ghost touch quality.

A fully-manifested ghost is, for all intents and purposes, completely on the Material Plane. They suffer and deal full damage to creatures, though their appearance is still clearly that of a ghost -- slightly translucent flesh, a haunting gaze, and possibly the physical marks of their death.

While within the Manifest Ward, all ghosts are forced into a fully-manifested state. Some spells, magic items, or feats used outside of the Ward may temporarily duplicate this effect. Outside of the Ward, which extends above and below the surface of the city of Manifest as well as outward toward the ring of trees at its periphery, a ghost cannot willingly become fully-manifested without aforementioned magical aid.

The Ethereal Current and the Veil of Souls

When a humanoid dies, their soul appears on the Ethereal Plane a short time after (around ten minutes, if you require a specific time frame). Their soul is carried along a flow of otherworldly mist known as the Ethereal Current -- resisting this pull is possible, though most departed souls either lack the will or desire to do so.

These currents flow like a river toward Manifest and the entrance to the Land of the Dead. The Veil of Souls is a metaphysical barrier, and upon reaching it the soul can choose to remain on the Material Plane or pass into the True Afterlife -- a realm from which only resurrection magic can extract them.

Death and Resurrection

The cosmological proximity of the next world in relation to Manifest means that the rules of resurrection are somewhat more lax. Oft times, the cost of securing the services of a priest or druid capable of raising the dead is exorbitant, compounded by the expensive material components.

While within the boundaries of the Manifest Ward, the material component costs of spells such as raise dead, resurrection, and true resurrection are annulled when used on individuals in a ghost state. It is a relatively simple affair to raise the dead here, provided a spellcaster powerful enough can be located. For this reason, those with the power often do not advertise such; they would quickly find themselves overwhelmed with petitioners begging for loved ones to be returned to them, and not every deity smiles kindly on constant prayers to upset the natural order of life and death (however peculiar it may be in Manifest).

A ghost can be injured and driven to a state of "true death." When a ghost is killed, their soul immediately departs for the True Afterlife as though they succumbed to the calling, and must be raised from the dead via magic.

The Calling

The Calling is the need for the departed to gravitate toward the True Afterlife. Even ghosts with a strong will can find themselves yearning to venture to the beyond.

Certain spells or effects in the world may trigger the Calling, as well as a ghost failing to satisfy its compulsion after a period of one week. When such a situation occurs, the ghost must make a Charisma saving throw with a DC equal to 10 + its current level of the Calling or advance one further step on the track.

You reduce your level on the Calling track by one after completing a long rest while satisfying your compulsion, being subjected to certain restorative magic, or completing a task that cements your grasp on the Material Plane such as vanquishing a powerful foe.

The Calling Track

  1. You can no longer grasp objects given to you from this point on, and they pass straight through your body when you try to grab them. This does not affect equipment you are already carrying or wearing, or attacks meant to cause you harm.
  2. Your will wavers as you struggle to fend off the Calling, and you suffer disadvantage on all Wisdom saving throws.
  3. The Calling forces you into a partially-manifested state if you are fully-manifested. You can no longer fully manifest.
  4. As you fall deeper under the sway of the Calling, you become closer to a state of undeath. You may be turned or commanded by clerics, and are vulnerable to radiant damage.
  5. The Calling weakens your grasp on the world even further, forcing you into an incorporeal state. You can no longer partially or fully manifest in the Material Plane.
  6. You are drawn to the True Afterlife, no longer able to resist the Calling.

Elves and the True Afterlife
Unlike most humanoids, the souls of elves and half-elves that submit to the Calling or do not choose to become ghosts meld with one of the spirit trees surrounding the city of Manifest. This does not affect the ability to later raise the elf from the dead, but elves may not want to return to life after achieving such a state of oneness with the souls of their people.

Ghost Appearances

When a ghost appears on the Ethereal Plane after its death, it looks much like its corpse at the moment of its death. Depending on the circumstances, the appearance of a ghost can be merely unsettling or completely horrifying. This appearance persists across different states of manifestation; there is no way to repair any apparent damage, nor does this result in a loss of hit points for the ghost while they exist on the Material Plane. Any severe damage, such as the loss of a limb, may impair the ghost in significant ways.

Should the cause of death not bear hallmarks of severe trauma, such as death by natural causes, a heart attack, or spells that kill the target with psychic damage, the ghost does not suffer any inconveniences aside from being dead.

Most adventurers, however, tend to die due to terrible injuries such as sword wounds and magical spells. When attempting Charisma skill checks using Deception, Performance, or Persuasion on creatures not used to dealing with ghosts, you suffer disadvantage on the roll.

The most unfortunate ghosts are those that suffer grievous and terrible deaths from massive weapons, being devoured by dragons or other monsters, being consumed by fireballs or dissolved by acid, or dying due to aggressive flesh-consuming diseases. Even to those citizens of Manifest that deal with ghosts on a daily basis, beholding one of these poor souls causes instant revulsion. You suffer disadvantage on all Charisma skill checks made to positively influence creatures, though you have advantage on Charisma (Intimidation) checks. It is advisable for such a ghost to hide their features when possible so as to avoid creating public disturbances.

What Next?

Obviously this is all just converted material. I need to determine the degree of awfulness surrounding the level-swapping mechanic from the Life Epiphany (that is, when you are dead, you only gain levels as eidolon or eidoloncer, and when raised you can trade out levels for another class that is not one of those two). It has the potential to bog down play a lot unless you bank XP rewards when players take downtime.

I also need to do some minor setting stuff like giving Ghostwalk's pantheon of deities appropriate domain selections. The eidolon and eidoloncer obviously need to be completed and polished up.

I backed off of creating new demihuman subraces. I feel like there are so many of those out there now that adding more for this setting would be superfluous. Even in Birthright I felt like I could justify it, but here I don't feel like it's needed after some consideration.

As always, I like feedback and constructive criticism. I haven't done anything risky here yet, just converted known quantities.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Ghostwalk Eidolon Class, First Draft

I wanted to toss this up here for feedback as I work on the Ghostwalk stuff. The 3E eidolon was one of two classes that ghosts could gain levels in, and I am currently carrying that conceit forward. It was a very barebones class with no proficiencies, no powers, no anything; just a bunch of ghost feats every other level.

Instead of doing that, I am giving it a somewhat more practical advancement track. I've created a form of currency, motes of ectoplasm, to power its abilities. Three of the six ghost paths from Ghostwalk (corruptor, poltergeist, and traveler) are going to be the archetypes for the eidolon. The eidoloncer, the caster-variant of ghosts, will use the other three (dominator, haunt, shaper).

The Path of the Corruptor is mostly done, and is an offensive-focused fighter-alike for ghosts; it will be posted as part of today's entry. Poltergeist will be something of a ranged fighter that animates objects to attack people, and traveler will be more rogue-like and evasive. Dominator possesses the bodies of enemies and uses them like puppets. Haunt is... something. I don't know yet. Shaper does funky stuff with ectoplasm to heal, harm, and create temporary ghost-themed magic items for party consumption.

Anyway, eidolon is below. It's still something of a mish-mash of themes, I find myself struggling to give it a single cohesive set of powers that all feel like they belong together. In particular, Wave of Wrath feels wrong and I will almost certainly replace it.

Needs work overall. Not quite happy with it.


Eidolons are the most common form of ghosts, consisting of those spirits who possessed a martial or otherwise physical bent in life. While they do not possess many overt physical characteristics compared to their living counterparts, eidolons choose a path that defines whether they are a violent ravager of the physical world, a manipulator and possessor of objects, or a fleeting spirit that is hard to pin down.

Class Features

As an eidolon, you gain the following class features:

Hit Points

Hit Dice: 1d8 per eidolon level
Hit Points at 1st Level: 8 + your Constitution modifier
Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d8 (or 5) + your Constitution modifier per eidolon level after 1st.


Armor: None
Weapons: Simple weapons, martial weapons
Tools: None
Saving Throws: Constitution, Charisma
Skills: Choose two from Insight, Intimidation, Investigation, Persuasion, and Religion

The Eidolon

LevelProficiency BonusMotes of EctoplasmFeatures
121Force of Presence, Ghost Path, Viscous Ectoplasm
221Ectoplasmic Weapon
322Ghost Sight
422Ability Score Improvement
532Extra Attack
733Ghost Fade
833Ability Score Improvement
1044Path Feature
1144Wave of Wrath
1245Ability Score Improvement
1355Path Feature
1455Terrifying Reaping
1656Ability Score Improvement
1766Path Feature
1967Ability Score Improvement
2067Rise Again

Force of Presence

While not wearing armor, your Armor Class is equal to 10 + your Dexterity modifier + your Charisma modifier. You can benefit from the use of a shield.

Ghost Path

At 1st level, you choose your Ghost Path from among the Path of the Corruptor, Path of the Poltergeist, and Path of the Traveler.

Viscous Ectoplasm

Your body is comprised of ectoplasm, which is both a measure of your metaphysical resilience and a source of your ghostly powers. Beginning at 1st level, you can create 1 *mote of ectoplasm* to power your special abilities. You gain additional motes of ectoplasm as you gain levels in this class. You regain all expended motes of ectoplasm after completing a long or short rest.

You can expend 1 mote of ectoplasm to add your Charisma modifier to the damage of any successful melee or ranged weapon attack you make.

Ectoplasmic Weapon

At 2nd level, you may extrude a portion of your ectoplasm to create a single one or two-handed melee weapon. You expend 1 mote of ectoplasm and use your action to create this weapon. The weapon is considered to have the *ghost touch* quality. The weapon disappears if you drop it or attempt to give the weapon to another creature. You can maintain this weapon on your person for up to 8 hours so long as it is gripped in your hand or visibly "sheathed" somewhere on your body.

When you reach 6th level, your ectoplasmic weapon is considered magical for the purposes of striking creatures with immunity or resistance to non-magical bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage.

Ghost Sight

Beginning at 3rd level, gain darkvision out to a range of 60 feet. If your race already possesses darkvision, you increase the range of your existing darkvision by 30 feet. You can expend 1 mote of ectoplasm as a bonus action to gain blindsight out to a range of 10 feet until the end of your next turn.

Ability Score Improvement

When you reach 4th level, and again at 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level, you can increase one ability score of your choice by 2 or you can increase two ability scores of your choice by 1. As normal, you can't increase an ability score above 20 using this feature.

Extra Attack

Beginning at 5th level, you can attack twice, instead of once, whenever you take the Attack action on your turn.

Ghost Fade

When you reach 7th level, you may expend 1 mote of ectoplasm and use your bonus action to become *invisible* until the end of your next turn, or until you make an attack or cast a spell.

Wave of Wrath

Upon reaching 11th level, you may expend 2 motes of ectoplasm and use your action to become a wave of violent ectoplasm. You choose one unoccupied location that you can see within 60 feet of you and draw a line between your current position and the desired location. All creatures in the line of effect must succeed on a Charisma saving throw or suffer 8d6 damage as you sheer through their bodies with ghostly fury. You may choose for this damage to be either psychic or necrotic.

A creature that succeeds on their saving throw suffers only half damage. You teleport to the location at the end of the line of effect as part of the wave. This movement does not trigger opportunity attacks.

Terrifying Reaping

Beginning at 14th level, you may expend 1 mote of ectoplasm whenever you reduce a creature to zero hit points to devour a portion of its escaping soul. You immediately gain temporary hit points equal to your eidolon level, and all hostile creatures within 30 feet of you must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or be frightened until the end of your next turn.

Rise Again

An eidolon of 20th level resists the Calling even when they should rightfully be destroyed. Whenever you are reduced to zero hit points by any source of damage, you can expend 1 mote of ectoplasm to immediately regain hit points equal to your level. You gain one level of exhaustion.

Path of the Corruptor

Corruptors are wrathful ghosts, filled with anger at their state of being and capable of wreaking havoc with ghostly weaponry formed from their own bodies. Though they are primarily focused on offense, they possess a small number of abilities to give them greater staying power, so long as they properly manage their ectoplasm.

Resilient Corpus

When you select this path at 1st level, your hit point maximum increases by 1 and increases by 1 again whenever you gain a level in this class. You are proficient in the use of shields.

Leeching Strike

When you reach 10th level, you can expend 1 mote of ectoplasm when you strike a creature with a melee weapon attack in order to restore 3d6 hit points. If this attack is made with your ectoplasmic weapon, you regain additional hit points equal to your Charisma modifier.

Corrupting Touch

At 13th level, whenever you strike a creature a melee weapon attack, you can expend 1 mote of ectoplasm to inflict 3d6 additional necrotic damage. If this attack is made with your ectoplasmic weapon, you increase the damage dealt to 3d8.

Violent Retribution

Upon reaching 17th level, you can expend 1 mote of ectoplasm as a reaction when you are struck by a melee, ranged, or spell attack. You gain resistance against the damage inflicted by the attack, and the damage that you resisted is dealt to each creatures adjacent to you as psychic damage or necrotic damage, at your option.