Tuesday, 9 April 2019

5e: Five Vampiric-themed Magic Items

These five items are perfect for any campaign where vampires and their servants play a large role, or to give to any character with a personal interest in vampires or dark magic.

Adamantine Fangtips

Wondrous item, rare (requires attunement)

These dark silver accessories can be worn over the fangs of an attuned creature which has a bite attack. While worn, the adamantine fangtips allow the creature to make particularly deadly and bloody bite wounds. The attuned creatures roll an additional die of piercing damage when they use their bite. If the wearer is also a vampire, they add their bite's piercing damage to the number of hit points they recover.

Bloodcharm

Wondrous Item, uncommon (requires attunement)

This ominous talisman is set with a large ruby that pulses with an eerie light while the bloodcharm remains unused.

A creature attuned to the bloodcharm can feed some of their blood to it as an Action, expending a Hit Die. The bloodcharm converts each Hit Die into blood magic, and can contain up to five points of blood magic. When the attuned creature fails at a Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution ability check, they may spend one point of blood magic to succeed instead. When they fail at a Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution saving throw, they may spend two points of blood magic to succeed instead.

Bloodline Blade

Rapier, rare (requires attunement)

A gleaming rapier of red-tinted steel, etched with runes of archaic common that spell out the name of its creator's proud bloodline. 

The bloodline blade grants a +2 bonus to attack rolls, damage rolls, and initiative checks. In addition, it deals 1d8 additional damage to vampires or vampire spawn that are not of the same vampiric bloodline as the blade's creator. 

Curse. A non-vampire who attunes to the bloodline blade begins to experience unsettling dreams that are equal parts disturbing and tempting, luring them to acts of imitated vampirism. Each night, the attuned creature must make a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, you rise from your sleep and attempt to bite the nearest available humanoid. You use whatever means are at your disposal to reach the creature, preferring quiet and stealthy approaches where possible. Your bite deals 1d4 piercing damage, plus an additional 1 bleeding damage each turn until the flow of blood is stopped. 

Until the curse is broken with remove curse or similar magic, you are unwilling to part with the bloodline blade, keeping it within reach at all times.

Cloak of Mists

Wondrous, rare (requires attunement)


This silvery-sheened cloak has a single charge. When an attuned creature wearing the cloak would drop to 0 hit points the cloak's charge is expended and the wearer instead drops to 1 hit point and transforms into a cloud of mist for up to ten minutes. The cloak cannot spend its charge while the wearer is in sunlight or running water. If the wearer can’t transform, they falls unconscious as normal.

While in mist form, the attuned creature can’t take any actions, speak, or manipulate objects. It is weightless, has a flying speed of 20 feet, can hover, and can enter a hostile creature’s space and stop there. In addition, if air can pass through a space, the mist can do so without squeezing, and it can’t pass through water or sunlight. It has advantage on Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution saving throws, and it is immune to all nonmagical damage.

The wearer can't revert to its original form as an bonus action, or they revert automatically once the duration has passed.

The cloak recharges at dusk. 

Goblet of Vitality

Wondrous item, very rare (requires attunement by up to ten creatures)


This is a wooden cup, unassuming other than the dark stain on its interior left by blood absorbed into the wood.

The blood of any creature can be let into the goblet, which can hold up to 50 hit points worth of blood. The blood of volunteers is best: if no blood is taken by force, the goblet gains a number of vitality points equal to the number of hit points worth of blood. If even a single drop of blood taken by force taints the blood within the cup, it has vitality points equal to half the hit points worth of blood.

Any attuned creature can spend vitality from the goblet while they are within 300 feet of it, in any of the following ways:

  • Spend 2 or more vitality as a reaction to add a bonus to any ability check, attack roll, or saving throw equal to half the vitality spent.
  • Spend 1 or more vitality as a reaction to recover hit points equal to the vitality spent. 




Thursday, 4 April 2019

Introducing Ramshackle!

As one journey ends, so another begins. This next journey take us far from the wasteland of an alternate Earth, to another more fantastical world and a city that floats on the ocean: Ramshackle!

Ramshackle mock cover.
Includes stock art © Anthony Cournoyer & © Daniel Comerci,
used with permission.


I've been working on Ramshackle for a little while now, and I've been teasing lore on twitter, so some of you will already be familiar. I'm excited to share this fantasy city setting with the rest of you!

Founded by pirates and smugglers, Ramshackle is constructed on the backs of sailing vessels and built-for-purpose platforms somewhere on the ocean roughly between continents, making it the perfect place for inter-continental trade (legal or otherwise). Under the stewardship of a council of commodores and magistrates led by the immortal admiral Antana "Firemane" Lecheq, Ramshackle has become a powerful city state in its own right. The city refuses to police the crimes its citizens might commit outside of its own waters and thus remains a thriving haven of corsairs and illegal trade. Ramshackle's dedication to neutrality also makes it a natural destination for exiles and those whose work would be seen as immoral or unethical in their homeland. All come together in a glorious multicultural melting pot. In spite of the city's infamous acceptance of all comers, citizens feel safe because Ramshackle's guiding principle of law is straightforward: do no harm to another citizen or a visitor to the city.

I'm writing a guide to the city which will include lots of setting lore as well as substantial appendices full of Fifth Edition-compatible game content that even those who don't want to use the city itself will find useful! These appendices include new monsters and new character options like archetypes, backgrounds, and feats!

Once I've got most of the writing done, the intention is to finance this project via crowdfunding/kickstarter so it can be professionally edited and filled with awesome art! A shorter player's guide will also be made available for free. In fact, information that will end up on the pages of the player's guide is also being added to Ramshackle's WorldAnvil pages, which you can visit right now!

Fifth Edition Fallout News - Journey's End

The official Fallout RPGs, and what it means for Fifth Edition Fallout

You're probably already aware that Modiphius announced not one but two official Fallout RPGs. The first will expand the miniatures wargame Wasteland Warfare, while a second more traditional RPG using a variation of their 2d20 system will follow (2d20 powers their other licensed games, such as Conan and Star Trek). This honestly came as no surprise to me: I've been convinced this day would come ever since they announced Wasteland Warfare in late 2017. It literally seemed a no-brainer, and the moment I read that news I knew the clock was ticking. It was no coincidence that after feverish development up to that point, last year I began scaling down the amount of new content I was making.

At this time, Fifth Edition Fallout fans shouldn't expect new updates. I might add a handful of new equipment or creature statblocks if the mood ever strikes me, but nothing substantial. There's a few reasons for this as I'm sure you can imagine: yes, I think most people will probably prefer to play the official RPG over Fifth Edition Fallout, and yes I am considering the increased possibility of receiving a cease and desist (I think such a measure on their part would be unwarranted, but I can't rule it out). But more than anything, I'm glad to say that the immense amount of work I already put in means that Fifth Edition Fallout is actually pretty complete! It might be missing a few creature statblocks or some obscurer weapons from the original games, and it doesn't include anything from Fallouty 76 either, but that's nothing an enterprising DM can't homebrew for themselves. The truth is there's absolutely loads of great content already in the game, including hundreds of statblocks: 355 to be precise, easily enough to run a campaign from levels 1-20.

This is bittersweet, of course. I'm extremely proud of what I've accomplished, while also sad that this journey is at its natural end. I'm a fan of Modiphius and I'm looking forward to seeing their take on a Fallout RPG in action, but Fifth Edition Fallout isn't going anywhere unless it becomes a legal issue (so go download a copy of the PDF while you can, just in case). I hope some of you will still play it, and maybe even prefer it! Fans should also keep an eye out for further post-apocalyptic products in the Wasteland Worlds line, too: I still want to complete the set with Wasteland Woes and Wasteland Wheels!

This is my stop, but that doesn't have to mean the end of the road: anyone who wishes to develop additional content compatible with Fifth Edition Fallout is welcome to do so. There's rich homebrewing possibility in a Fallout 76 expansion, for instance! If you do create any new content, let me know where you're hosting it and I'll add a link from the wiki!

No More Content Hub

The news of an official RPG on the horizon has also caused me to reevaluate the way Fifth Edition Fallout is presented, and I've made the decision to remove content from this blog and migrate it to the wiki.

Ultimately, this blog is my brand. It's the face of "Spilled Ale Studios". The original articles that became Fifth Edition Fallout were, in my opinion, on brand: When I first started posting the articles, Fallout was simply an example, used to demonstration the thought processes involved in hacking a game and the rules changes that evolve out of that process. It might be inspired by someone else's IP, but because it was used for the purpose of example I felt comfortable with these articles under the "Spilled Ale Studios" banner.

I feel that when I started developing Fifth Edition Fallout from the original ideas in that article is when the hack crossed an ill-defined line and became a personal project. As the hack became more and more polished and complete, it began to feel a little weird hosting the content on this blog, under the auspices of my brand. I've always been careful to make clear that the hack is a fan work and I have no claim to the IP, but the fan in question is me as an individual, not my brand.

It's past time to resolve that, so from now on no Fifth Edition Fallout content will be hosted here (you can still find the original articles in which the hack had its infancy, if you wish). The content hub that used to exist here has been taken offline and the Fifth Edition Fallout wiki is now your only source for all things Fifth Edition Fallout. However, you can still use the hub's url wherever you find it: it'll simply redirect you to to the wiki.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

5e: Valentine's Special! Warlock Patron, The Cupid

Happy Valentine's Day to all! To celebrate, add a little love to your game with this new warlock archetype!

The Cupid


Your patron is a celestial entity of pure and boundless love. You overflow with the love and light of your patron, and you are compelled to help mortals feel the same burning passion. You do everything you can to facilitate the loving relationships of those around you in order to bring more wonder and joy into the world.


A Cupid-pact Warlock. Stock Art © Matt Morrow. Licensed for use.

Expanded Spell List

The Cupid lets you choose from an expanded list of spells when you learn a warlock spell. The following spells are added to the warlock spell list for you.


Cupid Patron Expanded Spells

Spell Level
Spells
1st
animal friendship, heroism
2nd
alter self, calm emotions
3rd
conjure barragelightning arrow
4th
compulsion, locate creature
5th
conjure volley, geas

Bonus Cantrips

At 1st level, you learn the guidance and message cantrips. They count as warlock cantrips for you, but they don’t count against your number of cantrips known.

Cupid's Bow

Also at 1st level, you can spend an action to form a longbow of light in your hand. An arrow fired from Cupid's bow transforms to radiant energy, and deals 1d8 radiant damage instead of piercing. You are proficient with the bow, and you use your Charisma modifier, instead of  Dexterity, for its attack and damage rolls.

You can also use your Cupid's bow to fire a Cupid's arrow a number of times per day equal to your Charisma modifier (minimum of 1). If this invisible, intangible arrow hits its target, that creature is not aware it was hit but must make a Wisdom saving throw against your warlock spell save DC. On a failed save, it becomes charmed by another creature. If the target can see another creature which it already has loving feelings for, it is charmed by that creature. Otherwise, it is charmed by your choice of either a creature that both you and the target can see or the first creature the target sees within the next minute. Once the target is charmed, it remains charmed for a minute or until the creature charming it does something harmful to it. It can repeat its saving throw at the end of its turn, ending the effect on itself on a success. While charmed the target is distracted by its feelings, and has disadvantage on attack rolls, ability checks and saving throws for the duration of the charmed condition or until it takes damage or otherwise suffers harm. If the creature's affections are genuine, it gains the sudden urge to confess its feelings. If it does so while still charmed, the confession is made with such confidence that the target makes a very favourable impression. The attitude of the recipient improves towards the target (from hostile to indifferent or indifferent to friendly). If the recipient is already friendly towards the target, it seriously considers their confession and responds to their feelings with an honest and respectful answer.

Your Cupid's bow disappears if it is more than 5 feet away from you for 1 minute or more. It also disappears if you dismiss the weapon (no action required), or if you die.

You can absorb the magical properties of one magic ranged weapon into your Cupid's bow by performing a special ritual while you hold the weapon. You perform the ritual over the course of 1 hour, which can be done during a short rest. The magic weapon is consumed by the ritual, but thereafter your Cupid's bow acquires any attack and damage bonus or special features that belonged to the consumed weapon. Your Cupid's bow can only absorb one item's properties at a time. If you perform the ritual again, the properties of the old item are replaced by those of the new. You can’t affect an artifact or a sentient weapon in this way.


Cupid's Bond

Starting at 6th level, you can attack with your Cupid's bow twice, instead of once, whenever you take the Attack action on your turn. If you attack two different targets and both attacks hit, you may force both to make a Charisma saving throw against your warlock spell save DC. On a failed save, the target is life-bonded to the other creature you attacked until the end of your next turn. When the creature to which it is life-bonded takes damage, the target suffers half as much radiant damage. Once you one or more creatures fails their Charisma saving throw against this feature, you can't use it again until 24 hours have passed.

Power of Love

Also at 6th level, you can perform a ceremony over the course of a short rest that bonds two or more willing creatures that you touch, all of whom must love every other creature targeted. Their love needn't be romantic, but must be genuinely felt, and cannot be the result of magic or other artificial stimuli. For the next 24 hours, all targets gain the following benefits:

  • While they remain within 30 feet of each other, each target gains a +2 bonus to AC.
  • When one of the targets takes the Help action to assist another target, their proficiency bonus is added to the Helped creature's ability check or attack roll.
  • A target may spend its reaction to give a number of their Hit Dice up to their proficiency bonus to another target that they can see. The gifted Hit Dice are immediately spent by the second target who gains hit points equal to the total of the rolls. The recipient may add the highest of their Constitution bonus or the giver's Charisma bonus to the gifted Hit Dice to determine hit points gained.  

When you perform the ceremony and a participant does not feel genuine love towards one or more other targets, the ceremony fails. You learn which targets don't love which. If a target believes they feel love but those feelings are artificial, you also discover it. You do not lose the use of this feature when it fails, but you can't attempt it again during the same short rest.

Once you have successfully used this feature, you cannot do so again until you complete a long rest.


Unadulterated Love

Beginning at 10th level, you can channel Cupid's boundless love to create an overwhelming aura. Each creature within 30 feet of you must make a Wisdom saving throw against your warlock spell save DC. On a failed save, a creature reacts to the pressure of the aura in one of several ways: it might be charmed by you, stunned by you, or frightened of you for a number of rounds equal to your Charisma bonus, or until a condition is met that ends the effect early.  Roll 1d6 to determine the effect on each target. If you roll the charmed of frightened result for a creature that is immune to the condition rolled, it suffers the opposite effect instead unless also immune to that condition. The target can repeat its saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.


d6
Behaviour
1
Target is stunned. The effect ends early if it is harmed by you or one of your allies.
2-4
Target is charmed. The effect ends early if it is harmed by you or one of your allies.
5-6
Target is frightened. The effect ends early if it is at least 120 feet away from you and can't see you.

Once you have used this feature, you can't use it again until you finish a long rest.


Ever-Loved

From 14th level your patron's love protects you from the worst of the world's ills. You never become sick, and you are immune to all forms of disease.

Additionally, when you are reduced to 0 hit points you are instead protected by the aegis of your patron's love. You regain hit points equal to your warlock level, and you have +5 AC and advantage on saving throws until the end of your next turn. Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

5e: Low Magic Spell Slots

In mid-December last year, Mike Mearls posted an intriguing houserule intended to lower the potency of magic without also lowering a spellcaster's overall output. It was framed as an aid to DMs struggling to cope with the myriad ways high level spells can make adventure planning and encounter design more challenging, but by its very nature the houserule is also a powerful new module for groups who prefer low magic settings.


This houserule is built on the premise that all spell levels are equal, so that two 1st-level spells are worth the same and have the same sort of output as one 2nd-level spell, three 1st-level spells matches a single 3rd-level spell, and so on and so forth. This is largely consistent with the rules as presented in the Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition core books: we can refer to either the "at higher levels" entry of spells in the Player's Handbook or the Spell Damage table under Creating a Spell in the Dungeon Master's Guide to confirm that, as a rule, each spell level adds one die of damage. Technically then, the house rule above ensures that spellcasters maintain their existing potential for damage-dealing/healing.

Of course, things aren't as simple as that in practice for multiple reasons. Official spells play fast and loose with this formula and certain legacy spells break it completely. Your sorcerer will never have access to the insane meteor swarm. Then there are spells that don't deal damage, but introduce world-bending effects (like Wish, say). Additionally, a lower cap on spell level restricts the amount of damage spellcasters can deal during a single turn. The caster might be able to do the same damage in the long run, but it'll take them longer and that makes things more dangerous for them and their party.  If you implement the rule, be very wary of high CR monsters with large hit point pools.

On the other hand, it may have some positive side effects. For instance a healer has a lot more slots for cure wounds and other restorative spells, so that additional danger may be balanced out, in part, by an increased resilience.

In short, the houserule is technically fair but may have the consequence of making parts of the game a little harder, particularly combats against higher CR monsters.

Note that spellcasters are still extraordinarily powerful in the fiction, even if the effects they can manifest have become more limited. A 20th-level wizard may not be able to cast wish, but they can cast nine cones of cold which would be enough to single-handedly decimate a small army. We tend to use the terms "low magic" and "high magic", but this houserule might suit a setting in which magic is more "medium magic", falling somewhere in the middle.

I wanted to make Mike's houserule easy to visualise and implement so I went ahead and made a new Spell Slots per Level table based on it. Use this table in place of the spell slots section of the full caster class tables.

Full Caster Spell Slots
—Medium Magic—
(Mearls House Rule)

CLASS LEVEL
1st
2nd
3rd
4th
5th
1st 2
2nd 3
3rd 4 2
4th 4 3
5th 4 3 2
6th 4 3 3
7th 4 3 3 1
8th 4 3 3 2
9th 4 3 3 3 1
10th 4 3 3 3 2
11th 5 3 3 3 3
12th 5 3 3 3 3
13th 5 4 3 3 4
14th 5 4 3 3 4
15th 5 4 4 3 5
16th 5 4 4 3 5
17th 5 4 4 4 6
18th 5 4 4 4 7
19th 6 4 4 4 8
20th 6 5 4 4 9


One quirk of the house rule which is made very obvious when it is presented in table form: a rapid increase in 5th level spell slots, far outstripping growth of lower level slots. There are good reasons for this, but it makes for an odd evolution in the character's power which breaks with the game's norms. We expect higher spell levels to have equal or fewer slots to the spell levels that precede them.

Just for fun, I tried to make an alternative table which would convert the 6th-9th level slots down in the same way, but which would ensure that no spell level ever gets more slots than a lower spell level. This proved possible, but the solution to make it worked was a great deal more complex than Mike's "one 5th-level slot plus one [X-5]th level slot, where X is the original spell slot level" house rule. There is no universal formula here, the precise conversions had to be massaged to fit the rules I'd imposed.

The curious can read about these substitutions in detail immediately below. The rest should just skip ahead to the table!

  • Class Level 11: The 6th-level slot is replaced by 1st-, 2nd- and 3rd-level slots.
  • Class Level 13: The 7th-level slot at class level 13 becomes a 2nd- and a 5th-level slot.
  • Class Level 15: The 8th-level slot is replaced by 1st-, 3rd-, and 4th-level slot.
  • Class Level 17: The 9th-level slot normally granted at class level 17 becomes a 2nd-, 3rd-, and 4th-level slot.  
  • Class Level 19: The 6th-level slot is replaced by 1st-, 2nd- and 3rd-level slots.
  • Class Level 20: The 7th-level slot at class level 20 is converted into a 1st-, 2nd-, and 4th-level slot. 


Full Caster Spell Slots
—Low Magic—

CLASS LEVEL
1st
2nd
3rd
4th
5th
1st 2
2nd 3
3rd 4 2
4th 4 3
5th 4 3 2
6th 4 3 3
7th 4 3 3 1
8th 4 3 3 2
9th 4 3 3 3 1
10th 4 3 3 3 2
11th 5 4 4 3 2
12th 5 4 4 3 2
13th 5 5 4 3 3
14th 5 5 4 3 3
15th 6 5 5 4 3
16th 6 5 5 4 3
17th 6 6 6 5 3
18th 6 6 6 5 4
19th 7 7 7 5 4
20th 8 8 7 6 4


I'm pretty happy with this alternative. It preserves the expectation that the lower the spell level, the more slots the character should have. The difference in the number of slots also isn't too overwhelming (at 20th level, a character would have 33 slots compared to 28 with Mike Mearls' original house rule).

Since the spell slots skew to lower levels the same consequences discussed above naturally apply to this version of the house rule as well. But here they apply to an even greater extent. Therefore, this alternative table is best suited to deadly, gritty, low magic games, such as those with themes of survival and horror that more powerful magic would likely undermine.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

5e: Spelljammer Races: Part IV—Hurwaeti, Insectare, and Spaceborn Lizardfolk

Continuing my series of Spelljammer races conversions, we move on to three more denizens of wildspace! Meet the Hurwaeti, Insectare, and the Spaceborn Lizardfolk variant race!

This is part 4 in the series. Visit my Spelljammer page for links to previous posts in the series.


Hurwaeti

The hurwaeti are an olive-scaled reptilian race. Like a bullywug, they have long frog-like legs and webbed fingers and toes resembles an olive-scaled bullywug with long frog-like legs, webbed fingers and toes.  Their wide head resembles a gnome’s, with large pointed ears, a prominient nose, and a sharp chin. Adult hurwaeti of either sex have short, sparse beards and tufts of coarse hair atop their heads. Their scales are small, hard, and shiny, giving their hides a glossy appearance sometimes mistaken for dampness.

Hurwaeti were once a very advanced spacefaring race with colonies in many systems. They spread art, civilization, morality, and altruistic philosophy throughout the spheres. However, an ancient war with aberration-kind shattered them and killed their best and brightest. Many hurwaeti colonists were stranded on more primitive and dagerous worlds, and the descendants of these degenerated into creatures known as swamp and salt wiggles (don’t call a hurwaeti a wiggle!). The hurwaeti ventured out from their homeworld again following the war, but they are a shadow of the past. They wander the spheres as impoverish tribes, earning money in any way they can, including mercenary work but seldom piracy (their circumstances have changed, but they have not abandoned their ancient principles). Hurwaeti don’t talk about the war that lay them low, but their hatred of beholders, illithid, and neogi suggests that they fought all three simultaneously.


Hurwaeti Traits

Your hurwaeti has the following racial traits.

Ability Score Increase. Your Wisdom score increases by 2, and your Constitution score increases by 1.

Age. Hurwaeti reach adulthood by the age of 30, and can live past their 300th year by a comfortable margin. 

Alignment. Hurwaeti parents still teach their children principles of altruism, hospitality, and decency, but they also teach that the needs of the tribe have to come first.  Hurwaeti try to avoid crossing the worst moral and ethical lines, but they are quite prepared to sacrifice their personal honour if necessity demands it.  They are typically neutral. 

Size. The average height of a hurwaeti is a 6 and a half feet. Your size is Medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Ancient Hatred. When you make a weapon attack against a creature with the aberration type, you add an additional 1d6 to the weapon’s damage dice.  

Natural Armour. You have tough, scaly skin. When you aren’t wearing armour, your AC is 13 + your Dexterity modifier. You can use your natural armour to determine your AC if the armour you wear would leave you with a lower AC. A shield’s benefits apply as normal while you use your natural armour.

Obscuring Mist. You can cast fog cloud as a 1st level spell once with this trait, requiring no material components, and you regain the ability to cast it this way when you finish a long rest. Wisdom is your spellcasting ability for this spell. When you’re higher level, the fog cloud you create can be larger, as though you cast it using a higher level spell slot: at every odd-numbered level until 9th, the maximum spell level of your fog cloud increases by 1. You may always choose the spell level and thus the size of your fog cloud, choosing from among any spell levels for which you qualify. 

Standing Leap. You can long jump up to 20 feet and high jump up to 10 feet, with or without a running start. 

Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Draconic.


Insectare

Insectare are humanoids that resemble a cross between insects and elves. In fact, rumours have it that their species is indeed a magical hybrid of the two, though elves despise insectare and vehemently deny the possibility of such a relationship. Insectares have the general physical build of an elf, but are distinguished by lime green skin and extraordinarily long antennae that sprout from behind their pointed ears. Most insectare have eyes that on very close inspection prove to be multi-faceted. For some reason insectare clerics of their deity Klikral are an exception, possessing perfectly normal eyes. Insectare are not well-liked, and they often prefer to go disguised, hiding their antennae in folds of voluminous hooded robes.

The insectare race is a secretive one, keeping to themselves and jealously guarding the location of their forested homeworld, or even clues that might help lead to its location. They have ambitions to rule space, but they are too sly to wage war, at least until victory is assured. They prefer to scheme, plucking at the threads in the political web to turn other factions against each other.

Insectare live within the mountains of their world, riddling the rock with tunnels and dwellings not dissimilar to the nest of an ant or other insect colony. Their society is broken up into two blocs: Insectare that serve the Arcane are the most likely to leave their world, exploring wildspace to discover magical power and working to pursue the insectares’ offworld agenda; meanwhile, the servans of the Divine remain on the homeworld, diligently following the commandments of Klikral. 



Insectare

Insectare Traits

Your insectare has the following racial traits.

Ability Score Increase. Your Intelligence score increases by 2, and your Wisdom score increases by 1.

Age. An insectare reaches physical maturity around the same time as a human would. They usually live for approximately 500 years, though a handful of Klikral’s chosen priests can live over twice as long.

Alignment. A Klikral’s personal agenda tends to be a microcosm of the larger insectare agenda: they are only interested in what will benefit themselves, even to the expense of others. Their society is a very ordered one, with every member of the colony knowing their place, and few choosing to reject their role. They are mostly lawful evil. 

Size. An insectare is between 6 and 7 feet tall, and continues to grow as they age, albeit at a glacial pace. Your size is Medium, though some unusually ancient insectare can survive long enough to become Large.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Antennae. You have advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks you make. You can also communicate with another insectare telepathically by touching the tips of your antennae to their own. Furthermore, you can use your antennae as natural weapons with which you may make unarmed strikes, or you can use them to make a grapple. Your antennae are treated as whips: they have the finesse and reach properties, and if you hit with them, you deal bludgeoning damage equal to 1d4 + your Strength or Dexterity modifier (whichever is highest). 

Exoskeleton. Your chitinous exoskeleton affords you excellent protection, without restricting your movement. Your base AC is 17 (your Dexterity modifier doesn’t affect this number). You gain no benefit from wearing armour, but if you are using a shield, you apply its bonus as normal. 

Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Insectare. Insectare is a lilting language that borrows from the common tongue but also makes use of various clicking sounds. A creature which understands the Common tongue has a 30% chance of catching the general idea of a conversation between insectare, but cannot provide a comprehensive translation.


Lizardfolk, Spaceborn

Lizardfolk are inscrutable reptilian humanoids. They were brought into space as slaves, but became free. Spaceborn lizardfolk have become more intelligent and less torpid than their more primitive planet-dwelling cousins. Spaceborn lizardfolk attribute this change in their nature to their spelljamming near to suns and settling on worlds that are closer to them. They outfit spelljamming ships as incubators whose purpose is to bring their eggs closer to the nearest sun.

Spaceborn Lizardfolk Traits

Your lizardfolk  has the racial traits described for lizardfolk in Volo’s Guide to Monsters, but they don’t receive the Hunter’s Lore trait. Instead, they gain the trait described below. 

Sun-Blessed Skill. Thanks to the sun’s light and warmth, your body has grown stronger and your mind more keen. You gain proficiency in Athletics. You also gain proficiency in one Intelligence- or Wisdom-based skill of your choice.

Thursday, 31 January 2019

5e: Stamina Check Variant Rule (Take 2)


This post was updated on 04/02/2019 to reflect changes to the house rule based on feedback received. 

I've got the results of a random thought experiment for you today: what if when you level you roll an ability check to determine hit points gained? With no skills tied to the Constitution ability score, very few constitution checks ever happen in the game (concentration checks aside, most constitution-based rolls are saving throws). This proposed rule would give you new reasons to roll a Constitution check: whenever you gain hit points upon leveling, and whenever you want to spend a Hit Die.

Stamina Checks

This house rule replaces rolling Hit Dice with an ability check. The results don't map exactly to traditional Hit Dice rolls as it's impossible to perfectly replicate those odds using an ability check, but a character should still find their hit point rolls competitive, and often better. As a character's proficiency grows, their results become even more favourable, particularly if they're in a class which multiplies the proficiency bonus to the check.

You roll a Stamina Check when you gain hit points upon leveling up, adding the result to your hit point maximum. Instead of gaining Hit Dice to spend on healing during a Short or Long Rest, you gain Stamina Points. During your rest you can spend Stamina Points in the same way you would have spent your Hit Dice. Each Stamina Point spent lets you roll one Stamina Check and recover hit points equal to the result. As you would have done with Hit Dice, keep a separate pool of Stamina Points for each class a multiclass character possesses. When you spend a Stamina Point from one of your classes, the bonus you receive to your check is determined by that class. Once again, the results will tend to favour the PCs at higher levels, making their natural healing more effective.

At the DM's option, they can also call for a Stamina check whenever a character is attempting a feat of endurance, rather than simply calling for an untrained Constitution ability check.

Summary

Here's how Stamina checks work:

  • A Stamina check is a constitution ability check. Your class determines whether you have proficiency or expertise on the roll, as shown on the Stamina Check Modifiers table. 
  • Your result determines the number of hit points you gain, as shown on the Stamina Check Results table. 
  • You don't add your Constitution bonus to your Hit Points. Instead, your Con modifier has been factored in to the check itself. Note that this does mean that using this house rule, a character's Constitution bonus doesn't translate to hit points on a 1-to-1 basis. It's still important, but doesn't weight your result quite as significantly. Each +1 to Con effectively becomes a +0.5 to hit points. However, the proficiency bonus and the weighting of the results table pick up that slack. 
  • Optionally, if the DM allows you to take the average result and you wish to do so you can treat the result as though you had rolled a 10 and added all your modifiers (eg. a passive check/Take 10). 

The formula used for the Check Results table is hit points = ability check result / 2. It's impossible to perfectly simulate the same spread of results as standard hit dice, so the important thing is for the formula to hew as closely as possible, erring on the side of generosity. A consequence of this is that characters sometimes get more hit points than would be possible in the normal rules, so before implementing this house rule be aware that characters may end up being more resilient and heroic, especially as they gain levels and the influence of their proficiency bonus on the check rises.

Stamina Check
Modifiers

Class (HD)
Modifier
Sorcerer/Wizard (d6)
You add your proficiency bonus -2 to the stamina check.
Bard/Cleric/Druid/Monk/Rogue/Warlock (d8)
You add your proficiency bonus to the stamina check.
Fighter/Paladin/Ranger (d10)
You have expertise, allowing you to double your proficiency bonus to the stamina check. 
Barbarian (d12)
You triple your proficiency bonus to the stamina check. 


Stamina Check
Results

d20 Roll
Hit Points
d20 Roll
Hit Points
d20 Roll
Hit Points
0
0
15
8
30
15
1
1
16
8
31
16
2
1
17
9
32
16
3
2
18
9
33
17
4
2
19
10
34
17
5
3
20
10
35
18
6
3
21
11
36
18
7
4
22
11
37
19
8
4
23
12
38
19
9
5
24
12
39
20
10
5
25
13
40
20
11
6
26
13
41
21
12
6
27
14
42
21
13
7
28
14
43
22
14
7
29
15
44
22
45
23

Examples

Let's take a look at some of the possible results:

  • d6 Class (using a +0 Con Wizard as an example):
    • A 2nd level wizard with 0 con can get a result between 1 and 20. Their hit point range is between 1 and 10. They gain 5 hit points if they use an average/passive check instead of rolling.
    • At 5th level, the wizard's possible results are between 2 - 21. The minimum hit point floor remains 1 (albeit with less likelihood), but their maximum and average increase by +1. 
    • At 9th level, the wizard's potential results are 3 - 22. The minimum hit point floor increases to 2, while their maximum and average remain the same, though with increased likelihood of achieving those numbers.
    • The pattern repeats at 13th and 17th level, increasing the wizard's minimum and maximum results by +1 each time. By 17th level, the wizard's possible results are 5 - 24. Their hit point range is  3 - 12. They gain 7 hit points if they use a passive check instead of rolling.
  • d8 Class (using a +0 Con Bard as an example):
    • A bard's progression is very similar to a wizard's, except their minimum, average, and maximum stamina check results are all higher by +2. This means that their minimum, maximum, and average hit points at any level are 1 higher.  At 1st level their hit point range is  2 - 11, and they gain 6 hit points if they use a passive check instead of rolling. By 17th level, the bard's hit point range is  4 - 13, with a passive check of 8. 
  • d10 Class (Using a +0 Con Fighter an example):
    • A 2nd level fighter can get a result between 5 - 24. Their hit point range is  3 - 12. They gain 7 hit points if they use a passive check instead of rolling.
    • At 5th level, the fighter's possible results are between 7 - 26. Their  minimum, maximum, and average hit points all increase by +1. 
    • At 9th level, the fighter can achieve results of 9 - 28, increasing their minimum, maximum, and average hit points by a further +1.
    • The above pattern repeats at 13th and 17th level, increasing the fighter's minimum and maximum results by +2 each time. By 17th level, the fighter can achieve results of  13 - 32. Their hit point range is 7 - 16. They gain 11 hit points is they use a passive check instead of rolling.
  • d12 Class (Using a +0 Con Barbarian an example, however unlikely!):
    • A 2nd level barbarian can get a result between 7 - 26. Their hit point range is  4 - 13. They gain 8 hit points if they use a passive check instead of rolling.
    • At 5th level, the barbarian's possible results are between 10 - 29. Their minimum hit points increases by +1, while their  maximum, and average hit points both increase by +2. 
    • At 9th level, the barbarian can achieve results of 13 - 32, increasing their minimum hit points by +2, while their maximum and average hit points increase by +1.
    • The above pattern repeats at 13th and 17th level, increasing the barbarian's minimum and maximum results by +3 each time. By 17th level, the barbarian can achieve results of  19 - 38. Their hit point range is 10 - 19. They gain 14 hit points is they use a passive check instead of rolling.
  • Characters with Constitution bonuses:
    • Refer to the examples above, but: 
    • Each +1 to Constitution increases the minimum and maximum floor of the results by +1.
    • A +1 to Constitution is effectively worth half a hit point. The proficiency progression of the Bard example shows what happens when a character gains an additional +1 to their result. Depending on the character's level, it either increases the average and maximum hit points by +1, or increases the minimum hit points by +1. 
    • Each +2 to Constitution is guaranteed ot increase the character's minimum, maximum, and average hit points by 1. 


Consequences & Implementation

A house rule can have wide-reaching consequences, particularly when it alters something as mechanically fundamental as hit points. These impacts should be considered carefully, and the advantages and disadvantages to your game weighed before implementing the rule. What seems like a worthwhile trade for one game may not be a good fit for another.

Stamina checks change the game in the following ways:

  • On average, a PC should end up with higher hit points than they would normally have (the difference should be negligible at low level, lucky rolls aside, but more noticeable at higher levels. Because hit points are based purely on the check result and there are no caps by class, PCs can gain hit points in excess of the the limits imposed by the normal rules (or at least, defying the probability of their possessing enough Constitution to get such a result under the normal rules). A 2nd level wizard, for instance, could roll luckily and add 10 hit points to their maximum!
  • There are similar consequences to natural healing on a Short or Long Rest, with the average amount of hit points recovered per Stamina Point exceeding the average for Hit Die + Con. 
  • Warrior classes (d10 and d12 Hit Die) benefit the most from the house rule, since they double or triple their proficiency score respectively. This extra buffer is comparatively greater than the gains of less combat-oriented classes, particularly at higher levels where the multiplier to proficiency makes a significant difference.
  • The value of a character's Constitution is slightly diluted. Normally, +1 Constitution = + 1 hit point. When using Stamina checks, +1 Constitution = +0.5 hit points. This is an unavoidable consequence of using an ability check. A high Constitution score is still worthwhile, but players may feel it is less of a priority. If they so wish, the DM can increase the value of Constitution again by making an active effort to increase the number of Constitution ability checks and saving throws they ask their players to make.  

The overall effect of Stamina checks is to make characters more resilient, which is either an advantage or a disadvantage depending on how heroic you like your player characters to be: bigger pools of hit points and improved short rest healing will make the party tougher on the whole (though they must still protect their squishier casters). High level warriors who might feel a little underwhelming compared to casters who are capable of mind- and reality-bending spells are certain to appreciate their additional potency. You can pull out the stops to Go Big with gonzo action.

If you like the idea of Stamina checks but would rather the characters gain hit points that are still in line with the possible ranges of the core game, here are a few variants you could consider:

Implement the house rule but enforce passive checks at level up. 

Players don't roll to increase their hit point maximum, they always add their modifier to 10. This should result in hit points that are comparable or better than the standard rules, but do remain within the game's expected ranges. To take the most extreme example I can think of, a 20th level Barbarian with 24 Con:

  • With Hit Dice, their average hit point result at 20th level is 14 (7 + 7 Con). They could attain up to 19 hit points (12 + 7 Con). 
  • Using Stamina Checks, the barbarian's passive Check would be 35 (10 + 18 proficiency + 7 Con), resulting in 18 hit points. This is considerably better than a barbarian's normal average, but remains within the expected range of possible outcomes. 


Static Bonuses to proficiency, not multipliers.

d10 and d12 classes don't multiply their proficiency bonus. Instead, a d10 class adds its proficiency +2 to their roll. The +2 bonus amounts to +1 hit point compared to a d8 class. A d12 class adds its proficiency +4, or in other words +2 hit points.


Take 2 Changes

A previous version of this article used the formula hit points = ability check result / 2.5, rounded to the nearest whole number. I settled on this formula because it provided the correct average hit points for a character with +0 Con, but I had missed that it broke down at higher check modifiers and could leave characters with underwhelming average hit points compared to the default system. Thanks to reader J for pointing this out. 

A more generous formula of hit points = ability check result / 2 solves the issue, while simultaneously helping offset the difference caused by the reduced contribution of a character's Constitution bonus to their hit point total. It can, if anything, be too generous, but as discussed in the article that's a cost/benefit analysis each DM can make for themselves! 

As part of the overhaul, Barbarians now triple their proficiency bonus rather than adding advantage as previous. Advantage interacts strangely with the system in that it has very different consequences depending on whether you roll it or add +5 to a passive roll to get your average. It's fairer and cleaner for a Barbarian player to get the same benefits in either situation. 


Closing Thoughts

I really like this house rule and I think I'll try it out for my next game. If you use it, let me know how it goes for you!