Monday, 12 February 2018

Soundscapes from the Underground - a review.

Today I'll be reviewing a 10+ hour, 36 track audio album released by Satyr Productions and presented by @ratkingnow.

Soundscapes from the Underground
Soundscapes from the Underground


Soundscapes from the Underground is the first of what I hope will be many albums designed to provide non-intrusive, ambient sound for your games. Not just your home game either—once you've purchased the album, you're allowed to use the music in any non-commercial stream or other creative endeavour provided you properly credit the creators. Non-commercial is defined as any project that does not attempt to earn money except via reliance on generosity of the audience (eg. tipping), If your project is commercial, you can license the album for $150.

The actual price of Soundscapes from the Underground is ridiculously good. Artists on bandcamp can set a minimum amount, which in this case is just $3. You can voluntarily pay more, and let me tell you up front that for the amount you're getting here and the production quality, it's definitely worth more. You don't have to pay without knowing exactly what you're getting either, as you can listen to the entire album before making your purchase.

As mentioned, the album includes 36 tracks. All but one are around 18 minutes long so should probably last plenty of time for a scene, and if not they loop pretty well. The theme of Soundscapes from the Underground is, of course, the underground. These particular tracks are therefore designed to be perfectly suited for adventures deep beneath the surface of the earth.

The Campaign Begins is the shortest track at 1:43 long and serves as a piece of intro music to the actual soundscapes. I don't know whether it's intended that you would actually use this music too, given its short length, but it is a wonderful piece that conveys the magic and mystery of a fantasy realm. At under 2 minutes I might wish for it to be a little longer to make its potential uses less limited, but I could see it being useful as the audio accompaniment to a short introductory video playing before your stream, or as one of a handful of tracks played during a break.

Common Location: Fire is exactly as it sounds—18 minutes of a crackling log fire! Most groups will probably never reach the end of this track before changing it for a new dawn or a midnight ambush, but if you're lucky enough to have a group who'll happily spend twenty minutes making up stories for their characters to tell each other around the campfire, you'll especially love this track.

Common Location: Chains provides the sound of rattling, jangling, and dragging chains. Not exactly an everyday sound! To get the most use out of this track, you'll likely want to have your PCs captured so they can be marched through the tunnels or an underground city in chains.

Common Location: Cold Place is a slightly haunting soundscape made up of some kind of wind instrument that hums like a finger run round a crystal glass, occasionally interspersed with chimes. It does a decent job of putting me in mind of an icy cavern!

Common Location: Forgotten City evokes an ancient, abandoned metropolis. I'm not sure how common a "forgotten city" really is, but quibbles of naming aside this track does a credible job. The theme here is gongs, which follow a slow, fairly repetitive beat occasionally interspersed with lower and higher notes. The overall impact suggests a quiet, not obviously threatening, but slightly mysterious environment. I like it for a "Forgotten City" as intended, but I'd be equally happy playing it as the soundscape for any kind of man-made ruin whenever there is no imminent threat.

Common Location: Lava includes the sound of fiercely crackling heat set to the backdrop of a low, ominous ambient track. Other than lava, I think you could use this track for a burning building to good effect. I went into this one expecting an occasional bubbling, which is not present. Having done some research it seems that this soundscape is actually fairly accurate, I suspect I'm just used to the sort of sounds added to movies for cinematic effect. Authenticity aside, a more cinematic, animated lava sound might actually have been a good thing here to make the scene more dramatic.

Common Location: Rift is a percussive track with an echoing quality. It sounds somewhat mysterious, which is probably what you want when your adventurers are climbing down into the unknown.

Common Location: Temple is a quiet and contemplative piece, broken up by the occasional tolling of a bell. There is a persistent ringing noise throughout, and I'm not that sure what it's supposed to represent, but it does give the music a slightly otherworldly quality.

Common Location: Water is the perfect accompaniment to an underground pool. Water drips and splashes, and occasionally bubbles as though from the rise to the surface of a pale, blind fish from the pool's hidden depths... This is the most animated soundscape so far, with near-constant activity, to the point I'd almost prefer it if the drip drip drip of water was a bit more irregular. But on the bright side, your players are certainly never going to forget where they are!

Bear in mind that this collection is called Soundscapes from the Underground when you listen to Common Location: Wind. Rather than simply recreating the sound of a strong wind, this track captures the deep, slightly echoing and distorted sound of a strong airflow blowing underground.

We're moving on to a new grouping of soundscapes now that are themed around foes that your adventurers may encounter. I assume the creators intend these tracks to represent common underdark creatures but are avoiding using specific creature names that might run afoul of licensing issues. This has resulted in some quirky names in a few cases!

First up is Enemy: Aquanoid. My idea of an underground "Aquanoid" would be a Kuo-Toa. I have to say that this track does a good job of capturing the spirit of that monstrous species, even if it wasn't actually they who inspired it. Its intermittent notes paint a picture that's both alien and a little schizophrenic.

Enemy: Dark Elf is next, and now I'm sure that actual specific monsters were the inspiration for this set of tracks. This ominous track certainly captures the idea of "dark", there is a deep atmospheric background noise that gives me the impression of an impenetrable void, such as the pitch tunnels the drow might patrol around their cities. This is punctuated by an occasional forboding beat. And throughout, grinding and skittering noises that definitely conjured the image of spiders scuttering across the stones toward hapless adventurers...

Enemy: Dark Gnome is, I would guess, the soundtrack of the derro (although they are actually a type of dwarf). If it's not, it certainly fits them. The slow, drawn out notes of this piece carry a sense of impending but as yet unrevealed horror, which seems to suit their stealthiness and their sadistic personalities. The derro are also insane, a feeling I feel the track captures well by drawing each note out just a little past the point of comfort, lending the track an air of disquiet.

I would guess that Enemy: Eel Demon represents the aboleth, a creature that one source describes as being "a hybrid of fish and eel". If not, I have to say I'm stumped. This track has a slightly more hostile feel to it and the level of echo on the crashing notes gives it a sense of expansiveness, making it feel like a soundtrack to a large cavern environment—such as one containing an underground lake, say.

Enemy: Grey Dwarf would be for the other evil underground dwarves, the duergar. Like the rest of the Enemy tracks, it carries a sense of danger. Aside from the Dark Elf track, I think this one is the most truly sinister. The slow, dolorous notes of a hammered gong help complete the dwarven atmosphere.

My best guess for Enemy: Multiclops is that it is meant for the beholder. This is one of the busier tracks, and I like it. There is definitely something aberrant about the sound, which is built up around a slightly uncomfortable ringing. Layered behind this alien noise are clicks and echoes that are quiet enough to give a feeling of distance. As though they were being carried from a far reach of a beholder's labyrinth of vertical tunnels, perhaps.

I suppose there are no prizes for suggesting that Enemy: Octokenisai must, by process of elimination and also sheer obviousness, represent mind flayers. This one has long, reverberating, dissonant notes which meant I found it slightly grating to listen to the whole piece. However, that affect on my mind was perhaps rather apt, considering the psionic nature of mind flayers. It's definitely alien, and pretty eerie.

The album moves on again to a new category of soundscapes:  "Major Locations". It's a completely minor quibble, but I'm not sure the need to separate "common" from "major" locations, especially when it feels like a few of them are in the wrong lists. How "common" is a Forgotten City, after all, and how often do adventurers really find themselves near lava?

As much as I'd like to continue commenting on the tracks individually, there's still a lot to get through and I'm conscious both of the time it's taking to write this review and the reality that your attention span is probably being tested here. So from now on, I'll just talk about the soundscapes by category, and offer thoughts on ones that particularly stood out.

As far as the Major Location soundscapes are concerned, I like each and every one of them.These are a collection of mysterious, slightly fearful soundscapes that are perfect for the unknown caverns of the underdark. The theming of the tracks is mostly clear enough that I have a good idea when the creators expect me to use them, although by name alone I wasn't sure of the conceptual difference between "Beneath the Realm" and "Earthen Roots". Having listened to the tracks though, the difference becomes clearer. Given the watery feel of Major Location: Earthen Roots (lots of dripping noises) I suspect that the key word here is "roots". The soundscape evokes imagery of underground caverns filled with natural pools from water drainage in the lands above, the great sprawling roots of giant trees tangled throughout the cavern from ceiling to pool.

The last set of soundscapes are in the category "Mood", and start with four moods for battle.

If I'm honest, I don't think any of the battle moods is truly fit for their intended purpose. As in all things your mileage may vary, but I just don't see myself playing them as background for a battle. Like every other soundscape on this album, they are slow-paced and are uncluttered, using a limited palette of sounds to create their soundscapes. This is a choice that works very well everywhere else in the album, because the tracks hit a good midpoint between being atmospheric and yet non-intrusive. Here, though? It isn't a combination that gets my blood flowing and leaves me thinking "this is what a battle sounds like". Honestly, if there were any place on the album for more traditional musical scores, this would be it.

At best, I would say these tracks could work for the tense moments preceding a battle. If there are more entries in this series (and I hope there are), and if those albums include battle music, I'd like those tracks to have a higher intensity that captures the action and peril of the moment.

Other than the battle soundscapes, I found most of the other moods very fit for purpose though I do have a few specific notes on a couple of the tracks.

I think I might find it difficult to actually use Mood: Near Death in play, because characters most often find themselves in that state during a battle, and it's not really appropriate in a battle scenario for the same reasons mentioned above. To be honest, it probably wouldn't be my track of choice even outside of combat, because I'd want a soundtrack that really increased the feeling of tension as the character's allies race to save them. When would I use it? If the PC was alone with no chance of being saved outside of NPC help/DM intervention. The ghostly nature of the track would be perfect while narrating how the PC slips from the mortal coil.... possibly to be saved, just at the last moment? It occurs to me that it would also work very well as a soundtrack to the ethereal plane or whatever underworld exists in your game's cosmology. So all in all a great track, if possibly a fairly niche use case.

It's important to understand the use case for Mood: Sacred. And it boils down to this - sacred is a word with multiple meanings. It could mean "something connected to God (or gods)". In the D&D context, simply something divine. Or it could mean "something regarded as too precious to be interfered with". This soundscape is very clearly based on the latter definition! It sounds very, very ominous. Play it during a scene that includes a holy relic of some kind as a warning: don't touch, bad things will happen. But don't play this track to your players expecting the sound of angelic choirs and unicorn farts.


Final Rating and Summary 


17 out of 20! A superb hit.

This album has a clear and specific goal in mind: ambient soundscapes to add atmosphere to underground adventures. It is very successful at accomplishing it. The soundscapes are very evocative and very useful, and there are no problems with the audio quality. They avoid being too obtrusive, without ever letting you blank them out.

There are some minor missteps (in my opinion): just a few soundscapes I wouldn't use for the purpose they've been designed. But even these are perfectly good tracks if considered beyond those original contexts, and I feel confident I could find uses for them.

Soundscapes from the Underground deserves to be on the shopping list of every DM that uses music and sound effects in their game. Furthermore, at $3 this is a real steal, so it's worth giving more if you can afford to do so.

Still not convinced? Go listen to it and decide for yourself!

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

5e: The Wages of Sin, Part II

Content Warning

While I don't think there's anything offensive or particularly grotesque in today's article, a devil is a devil. If fiends in your D&D game happens to be a no-no for you, then turn away from this article!

A couple weeks ago, I started a series following my design process of new types of devils based on the seven deadly sins. Today's is the continuation of that series. If you missed the previous article, make sure to give it a visit first as it explains what I wanted to accomplish with the Sin Devils—the type of Devil they are and their position in the fiendish hierarchy. It also provided the statblocks for avarice and wrath devils.

Originally I wanted to provide two devils per article (or three in the last week), but developing them and writing a walkthrough of my process is proving to take longer than I originally estimated. Thus I'll be providing one devil at a time from now on. This week is the gluttony devil.

This article is an exercise in monster creation, which is going to be more useful and interesting to some than others. If you're more interested in the gluttony devil's statblock than my process, skip all the way to the end!

Sin Devil Traits

This is something we discussed last week, but since you may want to refer to the list while following along, I've reproduced it here.

The following are traits that are common to all devils and should also therefore be included in the statblocks of the Sin Devils created during this exercise. Unless, that is, there's a good reason to override them (for instance, an Ice Devil has Cold immunity whereas normally devils have Cold Resistance).

  • Damage Immunities fire, poison
  • Damage Resistances cold; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks that aren’t silvered
  • Condition Immunities poisoned
  • Senses darkvision 120 ft. Some greater devils may have truesight 120 ft. instead.
  • Languages Infernal, Common. All devils more powerful than an Imp have telepathy 120 ft. (which replaces Common).
  • Devil's Sight Magical Darkness doesn't impede the devil's darkvision (if it has any).
  • Magic Resistance The devil has advantage on saving throw against spells and other magical effects.
  • As potently magical creatures, devils generally either possess innate spellcasting (the only example of this is the Pit Fiend, which might suggest spellcasting is generally reserved for more powerful devils), or else unique special abilities that are overtly magical in nature. In the case of the Sin Devils I'm creating, it makes sense to theme spell choices and special abilities around the devil's particular Sin.
  • Even the powerful Pit Fiend only has four special traits, including its Magic Resistance as noted above. Keeping a cap on how many abilities a monster has is a good principle for any kind of creature, but particularly for non-legendary monsters which are expected to be encountered in groups. I'll try to stick to a four special trait maximum where I can. I might need to bend this rule, but will try to make sure that if I do most of the creature's special features are simple to adjudicate or don't apply in combat.
  • I'm going to make a similar commitment to trying to keep a Sin Devil's available action options straightforward, aiming for no more than two types of special action in addition to its regular attacks and multitattack options.


Sin Devil CRs

Again, this section is included for ease of reference. Last week I decided that my target CR range for the Sin Devils was between 13 and 16. I also noted that it would be good, if possible, for at least a few of the devils I create to have different CRs to each other so there is a greater range of play. Ideally, most if not all of the Sin Devils would also occupy CRs that aren't already filled by Greater Devils in the Monster Manual (eg. the CR 14 Ice Devil). I'll try to make sure that only one of my new devils, at most, has a CR of 14. It would be nice if they were fairly evenly spread throughout the range too.

Finally, I decided that Pride devils would be the most powerful, as Pride is often considered the sin from which all other sins spring. I'm aiming to make the Pride devil with a target CR one higher than the next highest Sin Devil. This means that if any of the other Sin Devils winds up with a CR of 16, the Pride devil will actually have a CR of 17.

Okay, let's get to it!



Making the Gluttony Devil

The gluttony devil should appear morbidly obese, that much seemed immediately clear. My initial instinct was to make it a Huge creature, but then I remembered that it'd be dealing with a lot of secret cults in cramped hidden rooms. Large might be more reasonable.

Given the devil is themed around overindulging in food, why not give it a grotesquely large maw? Certainly a powerful bite attack seems appropriate. To make the bite a bit more grotesque, I'm going to say that the gluttony devil can unhinge its jaw, and has the TARDIS-like quality of being "bigger on the inside", allowing it to consume things far larger than its physical size might suggest.


Gluttony Made Manifest

At this point, it's already fairly obvious what the gluttony devil's unique selling points as an opponent need to be. In case you've not read the previous article, both of the devils I previously created had the ability to manipulate nearby creatures with sinful feelings (an aura of avarice in the case of the Avarice Devil, or a single-target rage incitement for the Wrath Devil). Each of these devils need something similar, the gluttony devil being no exception. I've also already established its powerful bite and ability to swallow creatures whole, as well as the idea that it might be larger-sized creature.

So let's talk about the ability to turn people into gluttons, and how that might even work in a combat context. The gluttony devil's feast should be delicious, and it should also have positive rewards for its allies, such as cultists. But it needs to have a negative side that it can use to bring harm to hostile creatures (or cultists it wishes to punish). I came up with the idea of a Tempting Feast that can be eaten voluntarily, or because a creature is compelled to do so. Eating from the feast can have one of two effects depending on whether a creature is an ally or a target for the devil's animosity. For the positive effect, I looked to the spell Heroes' Feast but scaled it down slightly. For the negative effect, poison seemed appropriate. To make it more horrifying, the creature would still be compelled to keep eating, in spite of the harm it is doing to itself. Tactically, this also sticks the creature to the vicinity of the feast so it can continue to eat.

Here's what I came up with:

Tempting Feast (1/short rest).

The gluttony devil brings forth a great, mouthwatering feast which appears in an unoccupied area that is 10 feet by 5 feet in dimensions and within 30 feet of the gluttony devil. The feast may appear on top of any flat surface within the area that is at least 8 feet by 3 feet, or the gluttony devil may summon the feast atop a table of those dimensions and of a suitable height for either Medium or Small creatures. The feast typically comprises food and drink, but the gluttony devil can tailor the contents to also cater for any creature that requires other substances to sustain itself (such as blood for a vampire or some manner of fuel for a living construct). 

Any hostile creature that moves within 30 feet of the feast or starts its turn within the same range must make a DC 19 Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the creature uses any necessary movement and actions to reach the table and partakes from the feast before the end of its next turn. The gluttony devil may choose to force any nonhostile creature to make the same saving throw, with the same result.

When a creature partakes of the feast, the gluttony devil chooses the effect:
  • Though the food is appetising it is not fit for consumption and the creature gains the poisoned condition and takes 1d10 poison damage every time that they partake from the feast. Despite their discomfort, the feast is so delicious that the creature is compelled to stay within arm's reach of the feast and use a bonus action on each of its subsequent turns to continue partaking. The creature may make a DC ?? Wisdom saving throw at the end of each of its turns to overcome this compulsion. After it is no longer partaking in the feast, the creature may make a DC ?? Constitution saving throw at the end of each subsequent turns to overcome the poisoned condition.
  • The creature may immediately make a saving throw to end each disease or poison currently affecting them, becomes immune to poison and the frightened condition, and makes all Wisdom saving throws with advantage. It also gains 2d10 temporary hit points. These benefits last for 1 hour.
Once a creature makes its saving throw or it benefits from the feast's positive effect, it cannot be affected again by the same gluttony devil's tempting feast until 24 hours have passed.


Okay, so what about its swallow ability? Luckily, that's not a new feature. We can look at creatures like the Behir, the Remorhaz, and the Tarrasque to guide us. The damage dealt while within the devil's stomach is not the issue, since we can just decide on an appropriate amount to help us reach the CR we want (the DMG tells us to assume a monster swallows one creature and deals 2 rounds of damage to it). The main problem is deciding how many hit points of damage a creature inside must do to be regurgitated, because unfortunately the DMG doesn't help us there.

Based on the limited number of monsters available, my best guess for the "rule" behind this "regurgitation threshold" is as follows:

Swallow Feature Regurgitation Thresholds by CR

CR Range Regurgitation Threshold Examples
1-5 10 None *
6-10 20 None.
11-15 30 Behir, Purple Worm, Remorhaz
16-20 40 None.
21-25 50 Kraken
26-30 60 Tarrasque
* There's no actual evidence that creatures below CR 5 even need to regurgitate. All lower CR creatures with the swallow ability have no rules for regurgitation. My guess is it's assumed that the creature has few enough hit points it will be killed within a few short turns of the creature being swallowed. Furthermore, all examples are smaller creature who can only swallow one PC, meaning it's impossible to end up in a situation where most or all of the party are inside and need to escape without outside help.


The evidence for the above table isn't conclusive, but I'd say this pattern does fit the available data in a way I'd consider compelling.

Since we know the gluttony devil is going to be somewhere in the CR 13-15 range, we can give it a "regurgitation threshold" of 30, similar to other example monsters with similar CRs. If it winds up a CR 16, the threshold might go up to 40.

I also need to decide the type of damage dealt. Most creatures deal acid damage when they swallow, but the banderhobb from Volo's Guide is a "hybrid of shadow and flesh" that actually deals necrotic damage to the creatures it swallows, so it's not out of the realm of possibility that other supernatural creatures might deal other types of damage. For instance, for any other devil, I might consider giving it a fiery interior rather than a true stomach. For a gluttony devil, however, how can anything be more appropriate than stomach acid?

As previously noted I've decided that the gluttony Devil can swallow creatures larger than its size might suggest due to an unnaturally large stomach out of proportion to its physical dimensions. This gave me the idea that it could use the large quantity of stomach acid within as a weapon, but that spewing acid should be tied to its regurgitation reflex.

Swallow (bite attack rider).

If the target is a Large or smaller creature, it must succeed on a DC ?? Dexterity saving throw or be swallowed by the gluttony Devil. The devil's stomach is an extradimensional space, far larger than the devil's outward appearance would suggest. A swallowed creature is blinded and restrained, it has total cover against attacks and other effects outside the worm, and it takes (a not yet determined amount of) acid damage at the start of each of the worm's turns.

If the gluttony Devil takes 30 damage or more on a single turn from a creature inside it, the devil must succeed on a DC ?? Constitution saving throw at the end of that turn or regurgitate all swallowed creatures, which fall prone in a space within 10 feet of the devil All other creatures within 10 feet of the devil are targeted as if it had used its Spew Stomach Acid attack. If the devil dies, a swallowed creature is no longer restrained by it and can escape from the corpse by using 20 feet of movement, exiting prone.

Spew Stomach Acid.

The gluttony devil vomits forth an unwholesome wave of stomach acid on all creatures in its vicinity. Each creature within 10 feet of the devil must make a DC ?? Dexterity saving throw, taking (a undetermined amount of) acid damage on a failed save, or half as much on a success.

Any creatures currently swallowed by the gluttony devil is regurgitated as described in the description of its bite.


For a fourth and final feature, it occurs to me that the gluttony devil ought to be making use of grappling to pin its prey and make them easier to swallow. Thus:

Gluttonous Grip.

If the gluttony devil hits a Large or smaller creature with both its claw attacks on the same turn, it may choose to grapple that creature. While a creature is grappled by the gluttony devil, it has advantage on its bite attack against that creature.


Proficiency

As a Greater Devil, the gluttony devil has a Proficiency of +4 or greater. I'll start with +4 and adjust upwards if it turns out to be necessary later.

Movement

The gluttony devil has no conceptual basis for any kind of special movement. It is on the slow side for a large creature, with a walking speed of 30 ft.

Abilities

The most important ability for any Sin Devil, as consummate tempters, is always going to be Charisma. All Greater Devils are intelligent, for they are cunning creatures. Sin Devils especially need to be cunning to trick mortals into forfeiting their souls. Wisdom should be reasonably high, since a Sin Devil cannot afford to be the one who comes out the worst of an exchange with a potential victim.

For a gluttoy devil, Constitution also feels like it ought to be an important score. We're making them large and ungainly, but they should have excellent endurance. Since it's going to be making physical attacks and is of a larger size, Strength is also important.

I go with my gut and assign the abilities as I see fit, coming up with the following array:

STRDEXCONINTWISCHA
20 (+5)10 (+0)24 (+7)22 (+6)20 (+5)24 (+7)


Skills

As has been the case previously, I think that all Sin Devils should add their proficiency to Deception, Persuasion, and Insight.

Saving Throws

The gluttony devil is proficient in Dexterity, Constitution, and Wisdom saving throws.

Resistances, Immunities, and Vulnerabilities

The gluttony devils has same resistances and immunities as other devils.

Senses and Languages

I'm giving Sin Devils truesight 120 ft., and telepathy out to the same range in addition to Infernal.

Other Special Features

The gluttony devil has Magic Resistance and Magic Weapons in common with other devils.

Actions

As a high CR creature, the gluttony devil is going to have multiattack. Since it'll only have two limbs, it can have two claw attacks and its bite. The bite is likely to be a significant portion of its damage given the size of its toothy maw.

The multiattack entry looks like this:

Multiattack.

The gluttony devil makes two attacks with its claws, and one with its bite.


Putting it together: Offensive Challenge Rating

This time round I didn't make any assumptions about the damage each of the devil's attack options should be dealing, nor the damage of its stomach acid (though looking at the remorhaz and purple worm statblocks, between 3d6 and 6d6 acid damage would be appropriate depending on where the gluttony devil falls in the CR range).

For now then, I'm going to aim for CR 14. Why? Simply because the avarice devil already slotted in at CR 13 and the wrath devil at CR 15. There are too many sins for every Sin Devil to have its own unique CR in the target range I've set for myself, but it would still be nice to have a nice spread within the range.

Assuming all things being equal a CR 14 monster should be dealing 87-92 damage per round. Looking across at the Defensive Challenge Rating values for CR 14, I can already see that 266-280 hit points and AC 18 might be a bit on the high side, so I can probably afford to push the offensive challenge rating higher.

Let's assume for now that each of its claws deal 12 (2d6 + 5) slashing damage, and its gaping maw deals damage more appropriate for a huge monster. Let's call it 27 (4d10 + 5) piercing damage! That's 54 damage accounted for already.

I'm meant to assume one creature gets swallowed and takes two rounds worth of damage. If we give the gluttony devil 21 (6d6 acid damage) for its stomach acids, we can multiply 21 by 0.66 to determine its effective increase to the devil's damage/round over 3 rounds, which is 13.86. Let's call it 14. Our running total is up to 68.

Finally, there's the area attack acid damage that the devil deals when it Spews acid/regurgitates. Since this will take an action if done on the devil's own turn, it has to be an attractive option. Eg. it should deal damage roughly equivalent to the devil's multiattack. The general assumption with area effects is that they will hit two creatures (see the entry for Breath Weapon in the table Monster Features in the DMG, for instance). So ultimately, the acid spew should be dealing about half the damage of the multiattack to each target. So we're looking for a solution that achieves about 26 damage. Well, it would make sense to use d6s, right? That's consistent with the damage it's dealing when creatures are swallowed. 7d6 would deal an average of 24.5 hit points; 8d6 would deal 28. Let's go with the larger number in this case. Yep, it's slightly more attractive than the multiattack, but it also comes with the cost of regurgitating any already swallowed prey.

But then, why does spewing acid deal more damage than it does to a swallowed creature? Sort of suggests the damage against the swallowed creature should also be raised to match, right? In that case, let's reset our damage per round subtotal to 54 from the multiattack.

The acid spew would normally replace the multiattack and deal 4 more damage, but it can't keep doing that if it also wants to swallow creatures, which is better for it in the long run. I'm pretty comfortable assuming the average damage per round from the devil's actions will be 52.

We now know the gluttony devil is actually dealing 28 (8d8) acid damage to a swallowed creature. 28 multipled by 0.66 is 18.48. Our new subtotal is 70.

If we're assuming one creature gets swallowed, it's reasonable to assume that the creature will escape, causing two nearby creatures to be affected by the gluttony devil's acid spew at no action cost to the gluttony devil. So that's (28 times 2) multiplied by 0.33 = 18.48.

That puts our running total at 90.

But there's more, isn't there? The Tempting Feast! Once again, let's assume that the gluttony devil can successfully affect 2 hostile creatures with the feast. That's an additional 11 poison damage per round, for 101, bumping the CR up to 16.

As far as I know the poisoned condition should not have an affect on CR given it's roughly equivalent as a penalty to one player as grappling would be a bonus to the monster. And believe it or not, advantage on attacks against creature's you've grappled nets no change. However, I'm comfortable enough to rule that both features stacked together and the fact the poisoned condition would be applying to 2 or more players is enough to combine into an effective +2 to the monster's attack bonus/saving throw DC.

The appropriate attack bonus for CR 16 is +9. The devil's attack bonus actually is +9 (Strength +5 plus Proficiency +4) but I'm treating its effective attack bonus as +11. However, a not insignificant portion of the devil's effectiveness comes from saving throw abilities. An appropiate DC for CR 16 would be 18. The gluttony devil's is actually 19 (8 + Charisma +7 plus Proficiency +4), or effectively 21. This has worked out nicely - whichever offensive measure you use, the calculations come out the same. The gluttony devil currently has an offensive challenge rating of 17.

Putting it together: Defensive Challenge Rating

Assuming I still want the gluttony devil to come out as a CR 14, I need its defensive challenge rating to be 11, so it averages out the offensive challenge rating.

How do the devil's features play into its defensive challenge rating?

Firstly, damage resistances and immunities: with four resistances, we need to factor those into the calculation. Since there are only two immunities, which are both easily bypassed, it should be enough to adjust for the resistances only. For a creature of the CR range we're designing for, the monster's hit points should be multiplied by 1.25.

The devil has magic resistance, which the Monster Features table tells us is equivalent to a +2 AC.

Should the effect of the feast on the gluttony devil and its allies ought to be accounted for? There's not really any example for how this might be handled, so I'll be having to go with my gut.

I'm reasonably certain that most of the benefits of the feast to the devil's allies are negligible. Most of them don't even apply to the gluttony devil and other devil allies, and would only be of benefit to cultist minions. Advantage on Wisdom saves is certainly attractive, but its easy to get around by targeting other saves. The hit points certainly need to be factored in, though.

2d10 temporary hit points is attractive, but probably less attractive than the normal actions of the Sin Devil and other creatures that might be accompanying it. They're likely to deal average damage higher than the amount they would regain. Its allies probably still will eat the feast, because the combined package is a nice deal. But what I'm saying is the mathematical gain is likely to be null, or even a loss.

I might be really wrong in this, and I'd love to hear your opinions if you think so, but I don't think the feast has a significant impact on the devil's defensive CR.

Okay, so now we work backwards. The devil's +2 AC from magic resistance tells us that our target DCR is actually 10, not 11. The hit point range for DC 10 is 206-220. Since the devil has a resistance multiplier of 1.25, we need to figure out a number that is lower than that range and that when multiplied by a quarter of itself arrives at a total witin the range.

165 multiplied by 1.25 is 206.25. 176 multiplied by 1.25 is 220 exactly. So I need to figure out an amount of d10s (since the monster is Large) that, when added to the same amount multiplied by the devil's Con mod, falls within that range.

The average of a d10 is 5.5, and the devil's Con mod is +7. So my first step is to divide 220 by 12.5 (5.5 + 7), for a result of 17.6. Multiplying 12.5 by 17, I get a result of 212.5. 212 is right in the middle of the range, and I clearly can't do better. 212 hit points it is!

The typical AC for CR 10 is 17. And I can't change it without screwing with all the above calculations. But actually, in this case I've been happy all along to rule that whatever AC is required by the calculations is fine. Since the devil has no Dex bonus, it wasn't important to figure out. Its AC bonus can all be natural - from its magical nature and its blubbery body.

Since the DCR is 11 and the OCR is 17, the target CR of 14 has been achieved!

The Gluttony Devil



A gluttony devil is a Sin Devil whose role is to inspire mortals to consume above and beyond their physical need. They provide seemingly endless supplies of delicious foods, wines, sweets, and any other treats that a creature might wish to consume.

A gluttony devil is a tall humanoid with the physical proportions of a grotesquely obese ogre. Its arms long arms end in needle-like claws, with which it is capable of surprisingly delicate handling. It is known to use its claws to puncture its own favourite treats, such as the eyes of a victim, before popping them in its mouth. The gluttony devil's fang-lined maw is unnaturally large and its lower face contorts elastically whenever it smiles, frowns, or shows its fury. The mouth can open to a fantastic degree, unhinging completely, and a gluttony devil is capable of devouring a creature even of its own size, much like a snake would. The pallor of a gluttony devil's skin is wan, and when it is close a faint distasteful odor can be picked up on.

Gluttony Devil
Large fiend, lawful evil

Armor Class

17 (natural armour)

Hit Points

212 (17d10 + 119)

Speed

30 ft.
STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
20 (+5) 10 (+0) 24 (+7) 22 (+6) 20 (+5) 24 (+7)

Saving Throws

Dex +4, Con +11, Wis +9

Skills

Deception +11, Insight +9, Persuasion +11

Damage Resistances

cold; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks that aren't silvered

Damage Immunities

fire, poison

Condition Immunities

charmed, exhaustion, frightened, poisoned

Senses

truesight 120 ft.; passive Perception 15

Languages

Infernal, telepathy 120 ft.

Challenge

14 (11,500 XP)

Gluttonous Grip.

If the gluttony devil hits a Large or smaller creature with both its claw attacks on the same turn, it may choose to grapple that creature. While a creature is grappled by the gluttony devil, it has advantage on its bite attack against that creature.

Magic Resistance.

The gluttony devil has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Magic Weapons.

The gluttony devil's weapon attacks are magical.

Actions

Multiattack.

The gluttony devil makes two attacks with its claws, and one with its bite.

Bite.

Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 27 (4d10 +5) piercing damage. If the target is a Large or smaller creature, it must succeed on a DC 19 Dexterity saving throw or be swallowed by the gluttony devil. The devil's stomach is an extradimensional space, far larger than the devil's outward appearance would suggest. A swallowed creature is blinded and restrained, it has total cover against attacks and other effects outside the worm, and it takes 28 (8d6) acid damage at the start of each of the worm's turns.

If the gluttony devil takes 30 damage or more on a single turn from a creature inside it, the devil must succeed on a DC 19 Constitution saving throw at the end of that turn or regurgitate all swallowed creatures, which fall prone in a space within 10 feet of the devil All other creatures within 10 feet of the devil are targeted as if it had used its Spew Stomach Acid attack. If the devil dies, a swallowed creature is no longer restrained by it and can escape from the corpse by using 20 feet of movement, exiting prone.

Spew Stomach Acid.

The gluttony devil vomits forth an unwholesome wave of stomach acid on all creatures in its vicinity. Each creature within 10 feet of the devil must make a DC 19 Dexterity saving throw, taking 28 (8d6) acid damage on a failed save, or half as much on a success.

Any creatures currently swallowed by the gluttony devil is regurgitated as described in the description of its bite.

Tempting Feast (1/short rest).

The gluttony devil brings forth a great, mouthwatering feast which appears in an unoccupied area that is 10 feet by 5 feet in dimensions and within 30 feet of the gluttony devil. The feast may appear on top of any flat surface within the area that is at least 8 feet by 3 feet, or the gluttony devil may summon the feast atop a table of those dimensions and of a suitable height for either Medium or Small creatures. The feast typically comprises food and drink, but the gluttony devil can tailor the contents to also cater for any creature that requires other substances to sustain itself (such as blood for a vampire or some manner of fuel for a living construct). 

Any hostile creature that moves within 30 feet of the feast or starts its turn within the same range must make a DC 19 Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the creature uses any necessary movement and actions to reach the table and partakes from the feast before the end of its next turn. The gluttony devil may choose to force any nonhostile creature to make the same saving throw, with the same result.

When a creature partakes of the feast, the gluttony devil chooses the effect:
  • Though the food is appetising it is not fit for consumption and the creature gains the poisoned condition and takes 1d10 poison damage every time that they partake from the feast. Despite their discomfort, the feast is so delicious that the creature is compelled to stay within arm's reach of the feast and use a bonus action on each of its subsequent turns to continue partaking. The creature may make a DC 19 Wisdom saving throw at the end of each of its turns to overcome this compulsion. After it is no longer partaking in the feast, the creature may make a DC 19 Constitution saving throw at the end of each subsequent turns to overcome the poisoned condition.
  • The creature may immediately make a saving throw to end each disease or poison currently affecting them, becomes immune to poison and the frightened condition, and makes all Wisdom saving throws with advantage. It also gains 2d10 temporary hit points. These benefits last for 1 hour.
Once a creature makes its saving throw or it benefits from the feast's positive effect, it cannot be affected again by the same gluttony devil's tempting feast until 24 hours have passed.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Playing an RPG: Roles and Responsibilities

It's been a long time since I actually talked about it on this blog, but some of you may remember that I'm developing a roleplaying game and campaign setting called One For All, a fantasy world that draws inspiration from The Three Musketeers and the historical period in which Alexandre Dumas' famous novel is set.

The other day I was writing the book's introduction, including a section advising players how to bring their best to the game and get the most back from it. I broke the section down into a number of roles that a player should aim to occupy while they are playing.

I think this advice would be a useful primer for newer players of any game, not just One For All, so I've decided to share it!

As always, feel free to leave your comments and share your own thoughts about what Game Masters and players need to bring to the game. And if you think I've missed an important role, I definitely want to hear it!

Roles and Responsibilities

A tabletop rpg is a game of collaborative imagination. It works best when everyone playing is combining their efforts to tell a fantastic tale, rather than playing against each other or with different goals in mind.

The following are summaries of the many roles and responsibilities of both the Game Master and other players.


Responsibilities of the Game Master


Be a Lead Writer

You are the primary author of the story being told. You invent the plots and scenarios in which the other players’ characters will become entangled.

You are not the only person in the game with a stake in its outcome, and because characters can attempt any task they like it is impossible for you to have complete control. Recognise that you are not writing a book, and that collaboration is key. Reward the creative efforts of your fellow players. Try to incorporate story details from the backstories invented by your players for their characters. Keep talking to your players about what their characters think about recent events and try to incorporate their goals into the ongoing plot. When players have ideas that you were not prepared for, think about how you can accommodate those ideas and weave them into a better collaborative story.


Be a Director

Not only do you invent the scenarios that the other players face , you also guide their outcomes at the table. You keep the other players on track with a light hand, but you also recognise and reward initiative and improvisation. If the direction your players are taking the game is an inspired one, you massage the plot to make it fit. If the only possible outcome is a dead end, you use in-game clues and prompts to nudge them back into a more productive direction.  You also decide how all non-player characters (the other people populating the world that aren’t under a player’s control) act, react, and what they say.


Be the Supporting Cast

Every other player controls a single character, one of the story’s protagonists, and decides what they do and say. What about everyone else in the world? They’re known as non-player characters (or npcs for short), but technically they do have a player—you. Based on a given non-player character’s personality and the things they know, you decide how they respond to the player characters. You also decide how on  npc’s choices might affect other npcs, and how those secondary npcs react, even when those events aren’t happening “on-screen” in the presence of the player characters. Based on your decisions, the world the player characters occupy appears to live and breathe.


Be a Referee

When the players attempt something, you’re the one who adjudicates how that action should be interpreted within the rules of the game. When there is a rules dispute between two players or a player and yourself, you’re the one who decides how the game should proceed. Your knowledge of the game’s rules should be good but needn’t be encyclopedic. You are not a dictator, and if you are yourself uncertain of a rule you can listen to the opinions of your players before deciding how to proceed. But make a ruling quickly and keep the game moving. There is no such thing as a bad call as long as there is a reason to make it and it advances the story. You can always look up the relevant rules later and use them going forward.


Be a Mediator

In the unfortunate event of a dispute between players (even when one of those players is you), as the person “in charge” it falls upon you to try and resolve the dispute in amicable fashion.  You become a mediator when the role of referee fails you, which might happen when there is no rule to look up to confirm which player is right, or no ruling you can make to simply eliminate whatever concern has been raised. In a case that can’t be solved by a simple adjudication, as in interpersonal issues, compromise is likely the best way forward.


Responsibilities of the Players


Be a Lead Actor


As a player you have control of one character—one of only a small number of main characters. The story your Game Master presents for you is designed to be interacted with, and the world reacts and changes according to your choices.

Since you only have to focus on one character, do your best to really immerse yourself in that role! Really engage with the world your Game Master is presenting you and the creatures that populate it. And remember that your character is not you—how would they react to the circumstance they are currently presented with.


Be a Writer

Although the Game Master presents the plot of your game and decides key issues like what threats you might face, you have more control than you might think over the game’s story. You are one of multiple creatives pulling together, just like in the writers' room of your favourite tv show. And just like that team of writers, you have a Lead Writer (your Game Master) who oversees your ideas and pulls them together to create the best story that is consistent with the larger narrative.

In the context of the game’s world, your character didn’t pop into existence out of nowhere. They have a back story, including relatives, friends, former comrades, loved ones, rivals and enemies, and of course significant events that occurred before the onset of the Game Master’s story. You can create as much or a little of this background as you are comfortable with up front—you can always add new embellishments to your character’s history as the game progresses, and your Game Master may even help you to fill in blanks by introducing non-player characters and details which don’t contradict the facts you have decided on. However, bear in mind that any information you do make available to the Game Master is a potential story hook that they can incorporate into the plot. A long lost family member, a mysterious benefactor, a crisis of faith, a deal with the proverbial devil, a well-publicised triumph or a devastating loss—all these and an infinite number of other possibilities are rich with golden story potential for your Game Master to mine.

As a player, you also have a significant voice in determining what parts of the world the party choose to invest their interest in, as well as deciding  whether or not to engage with a particular plot hook.Whenever you are faced with such a decision, ask yourself what would be the most exciting decision in terms of pushing the plot forward. If you were writing the story yourself for a novel or script, would one of the possible decisions move the story forward in an interesting way, or would the result of the decision be narratively unsatisfying? Pick the option that will make for the best story, not just for you and your character, but for everyone else involved in the game.

Sometimes, it might seem that your character would always choose one option, even when you know that the other options is the one that will best serve the needs of the game. For instance, imagine that the player characters are taking a meal at a roadside tavern before continuing on with their mission. Suddenly a farmer rushes in, screaming that his son has been kidnapped by a fey creature. Your character is an unfeeling sort who feels no empathy with the farmer, and would rather not delay the completion of his or her current task. Your first inclination in a situation like this might be to refuse to help and go on with your meal. If you do that, though, you’re not engaging with the story or moving it forward in an interesting direction.

With some thought, it should almost always be possible to take an action even when, at first, ot appears not to be in-character. It could be something simple—maybe they’re in an unusually generous mood right now. Perhaps they don’t care about helping, but they do care about their friends who do want to help. You could also come up with a new backstory element that explains the character’s reaction. For instance, perhaps they lost a child, sibling or childhood friend in similar circumstances. Or maybe they have a previously undisclosed reason to have a personal grudge against they fey?


Be Moderate

Always try to keep your cool and keep the peace. In the unfortunate event of a dispute between yourself and another player, rely on your Game Master to adjudicate fairly.

Remember that your Game Master is putting in a lot of work so that you can have a fun game experience, and during the game they have a lot of moving pieces to juggle. If you think they may have misinterpreted something you said or misremembered a rule, ask yourself if it really matters. If you think it does, can it wait to be discussed after the game? If not, it’s okay to politely question it. But when the Game Master responds, accept their ruling even if you disagree with it. A big debate (or worse an argument) at the table isn’t going to be fun for anyone. If you feel something is really important, try approaching the Game Master after the game when they are less preoccupied. That way they’ll be able to focus on what you’re saying and why it matters to you.


Be Helpful

Your Game Master spends a lot of time preparing for your game and has a lot to keep track of during play. Consider ways that you might lighten their load by taking on a task that generally falls to the Game Master. You could make it your responsibility to put out miniatures and tokens and to put them away when the game is done, volunteer to keep track of the Turn Order during combats, or take notes during the game and keep a campaign log. If you play at your Game Master’s home, they might be tempted to perform hosting duties like making drinks and preparing food. As long as they’re comfortable with you using their kitchen, you could volunteer to be on drink and snack duty instead.


Be Thankful

Running a game can be very rewarding, and your Game Master probably loves what they do. Even so, a lot of work goes into running and planning a game. Make sure to thank your Game Master after a game session, and don’t forget to let them know which parts you really loved! 

Friday, 26 January 2018

5e: Product Announcement - The Awakened Item!



Happy Friday everyone! I hope you're looking forward to your weekends.

I'm excited to announce that I have a new product up on DMsGuild. Actually, it's been for sale for a few days already but it's taken me a while to get around the announcement.

Without further ado:

The Awakened Item 



The Awakened Item © RDD Wilkin / Spilled Ale Studios.

The Awakened Item is a complete solution for playing a very unusual character concept: a sentient magic item which grows more powerful alongside its humanoid companions.

A gleaming longsword set atop a pile of treasure deep in the heart of a dungeon suddenly calls out to the adventurers filling their pouches with coin.

A fiddle levitates alongside a cheerful bard. The townsfolk in their audience gasp in delight as the fiddle begins playing itself, accompanied by the bard’s flute. Seemingly from nowhere, a melodious voice joins the song—the fiddle itself is singing.

A dark-clad paladin carves his way through his enemies, the black iron symbol of a fearsome visaged deity worn around his neck. The monstrous face on the symbol moves by itself, the creature openly mocking the enemy as they are carved down and exulting in their destruction.


All of these are awakened items, magic items created with sentience to fulfill some purpose that was considered of the utmost importance by their creator.


As an awakened item, you have intelligence, free will, and are able to speak - you're therefore a full member of the party, able to contribute during social encounters and take part in party decisions. You can also magically fly, giving you autonomy of movement, provided you remain within a certain range of the character to whom you are attuned (which increases as you progress in levels). On any given turn you can function as an individual party member, making your own attacks or using your inner reserve of magic to reproduce spells and create other effects. Alternatively, you might instead choose to sacrifice your own action to enhance the efforts of your wielder for that turn.

At the core of any awakened item's personal drives is their purpose, a significant mission for which they were created. The need to pursue that purpose is a significant part of who an awakened item is, but it's not all there is to them. Each awakened item has its own personality, complete with admirable traits, flaws, and foibles. It's also up to you to decide what an awakened item's purpose ultimately means to them. In general, an awakened item is never more content than when they are working towards their goal, but it’s possible that some items might come to resent or fear the purpose for which they were created, and do their best to undermine themselves, even as they work towards it. A lucky few awakened items might actually see their purpose fulfilled, but then learn that they exist beyond the scope of that purpose. Such an item must somehow overcome its limitations, and find a new goal to inspire it to move forward.

An attuned partner is essential for an awakened item, making this a class that relies on a collaborative approach to gaming. If you love forging strong bonds between your character and their comrades, this is a great class for you! You'll work with another member of your group to make a humanoid character and an awakened item that fit well together, and you'll work as a team during encounters to overcome the challenges you face together. Plus, you'll be sure to enhance your game's narrative with the truly unique relationship you share!

The Awakened Item is a 16 page document that contains the following:
  • The Awakened Item Race, with 9 subraces to help you play any kind of item you wish—Accessory or Clothing, Armour or Shield, Holy Symbol, Instrument, Melee Weapon, Orb or Wand, Ranged Weapon, Rod or Staff, or Tool.
  • The full 20-level Awakened Item class progression. As an Awakened Item, you can communicate with your party and you can even move autonomously, as long as you remain close to your attuned partner. You can act on your own, or you can assist the player character who wields you with their own actions. You can also tap your inner store of magical energy to reproduce a number of spells and unique magical effects.
  • Pick a purpose for your existence, gaining archetypal powers based on your purpose throughout your career. The class includes 8 archetypes—Destiny, Glory, Order, Protection, Purification, Recovery, Soothing, and Vengeance!

Sunday, 21 January 2018

5e: Fifth Edition Fallout News - Fall Britannia Lore added to wiki!

As I mentioned back in November, I've been developing a homebrew setting for use with my Fifth Edition Fallout rules. The setting is called Fall Britannia, and takes a look at what the post-apocalyptic remnants of the United Kingdom might look like in the Fallout universe.

Fall Britannia logo © RDD Wilkin / Spilled Ale Studios. Personal use permitted. Do not redistribute.


Although still a work in progress, I decided to update the Fifth Edition Fallout Wiki with all the setting lore I've created so far. This is chiefly because I intend to set the one-shot live play game, as well as any future games I might choose to stream, in this new part of Fallout's world. Specifically, in The Smoke—or London, to us. Since the time to run the live play is creeping very close now (only 115 followers to go to reach the target!), now seemed as good a time as any to flesh out my notes and share them. This way, my players will have access to some lore when creating their characters, and anyone who watches the stream can look into the lore for a bit of background context.

You can therefore start exploring Fall Britannia right now if you want to be caught up before the game, if you might like to GM in the setting yourself, or if you're simply curious about what's different! Visit the Fall Britannia index page, or simply use the wiki's navigation bar to explore the Fall Britannia section.

Lore added to the wiki currently includes sections on pre-War history; pre-War brands; wasteland factions; notes on which species are present including a new species, the dearg dubh; equipment; and guidance on which creatures from the Fifth Edition Fallout bestiary might appear in Fallen Britain.

Newman's Atomic Iron Brew, a soft drink in Fallen Britain. Logo © RDD Wilkin / Spilled Ale Studios. Personal use permitted. Do not redistribute.


Radsquirrels

Fall Britannia naturally has its own mutant creatures in addition to the many creatures from the core rules that can also be found in Fallen Britain. I've already statted out a small number of these new foes.

Truth be told, I wasn't planning to add any to the wiki just yet as I thought it might be better to keep them under wraps so they'd remain a surprise in the event I use them in my streamed game. However, apparently January 21st is Squirrel appreciation day, so how could I not honour the little critters by sharing the statblocks for radsquirrels!

Check them out here!

Radsquirrels appear all over Fallen Britain (and I see no reason you couldn't add them to games set in North America).

Resource Update

I've also updated the resources section of the navbar to include links to some very useful tools:

NUKEMAP is an excellent resource if, like me, you are considering running Fifth Edition Fallout outside of any of the canonical settings, or want to develop an at least sort-of-believable setting for any other game set in a post-nuclear apocalypse. By placing a number of nuke locations and setting factors such as nuclear yield, wind direction, and wind speed, you can model the theoretical impact of those nukes. It's extremely useful, not to mention rather interesting to experiment with (but also downright terrifying).

Visit wizardawn's post-apocalyptic section to find generators for post-apocalyptic maps and scavenged items. On the bottom left of the page you'll also see a section entitled "Supplements" that has an extremely handy PDF of tables for randomly generating wasteland garbage.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

5e: Fifth Edition Fallout News - Wiki and Live Stream!

I have two major Fifth Edition Fallout updates to announce! Okay, technically I announced both on twitter already, so some of my readers will already be aware. But do you know how little visibility an individual tweet gets? And not all of you follow me on twitter (though maybe you should! Especially if you're a Fifth Edition Fallout fan... but we'll get to that!).

The Fifth Edition Fallout Wiki is live!

It took a lot of work, but I got there. Everything from the current version of the PDF is now online. Furthermore, the wiki has some rules updates and corrections as well as monster statblocks that have yet to be added to the PDF, including: the Courier player background, updated power armour rules, Anglers, Fog Crawlers, Geckos, Ghoul Whales, Giant Catfish, Gulpers, Hermit Crabs, and Rad-Dolphins!

I will endeavour to get these things updated in the PDF as soon as possible, but I'd like to completely finish the beast statblocks before pushing out a new update. For the time being, the wiki is your most up-to-date resource for Fifth Edition Fallout.

Find the Fifth Edition Fallout Wiki here!

Fifth Edition Fallout Live Play

I'm approaching 1,000 followers on twitter! I've been thinking that when I reach that milestone, I'll celebrate by inviting five followers to join me for a one-shot roll20 game of Fifth Edition Fallout.

I also hope to stream the game and record it for the benefit of those who can't watch live. I'm very new to the world of streaming, but hopefully I can get it all figured out by the time the game actually happens.

I have a few of Fifth Edition Fallout's biggest fans in mind to invite to the one shot, but they likely won't fill out the entire 5 slots, especially given the likelihood of incompatible time zones. The slots I can't fill with invitations will be opened to my twitter followers. So if you'd like a chance to get in on the game, or simply want to see it happen, go follow me on twitter if you haven't already!

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

5e: The Wages of Sin, Part I

I know I already said this last week, but Happy New Year! Have any of you made a resolution to kick the habit of one of your worst indulgences? I know I could certainly stand to eat less and exercise more. Gluttony and sloth are no doubt highest on my list of sins.

It's such sins that are the topic of today's article: as a creative exercise, I'll be creating new types of devil themed around the Seven Deadly Sins.

Content Warning

Note that due to the subject matter of the article (devils in general and sins such as lust) it may stray into territory that could be inappropriate for younger readers or make an older reader uncomfortable depending on their beliefs and sensibilities. Please bear that in mind before deciding whether to continue reading.

The Seven Deadly Sins

I'd honestly be surprised if any of my audience need a primer on what exactly the Seven Deadly Sins are, but you know what they say about making assumptions. If this section is useful to you, fantastic. If not, please feel free to skip ahead!

The Deadly Sins are also known as Capital Vices or Cardinal Sins. They are the worst, broadly-defined vices from which other more specific immoralities spring. They can be considered abuses of a person's natural passions (such as one's desire to eat, when taken to extremes, becoming gluttony).

The Seven Deadly Sins are:

  • Avarice: Also known as Greed or Covetousness. A desire for material (and therefore spiritually insignificant) possessions.
  • Gluttony: A wasteful desire, gluttony is consumption in excess beyond the point of benefit. The target of the desire may be an essential of life such as food or water, or possibly consumed for pleasure.
  • Envy: The envious desire what they do not have, and may or may not deserve, instead of focusing on what they do possess and finding the positives in that.
  • Lust: Also known as Lechery. A potent desire, usually for physical, sexual acts. However, lust can be considered an intense, unwholesome longing for any kind of activity or reward.
  • Pride: Arrogance or excessive sense of self-importance, superiority over others. Considered by most the original Sin from whence even the other six cardinal sins have sprung.
  • Sloth: Indifference to duties, whether they be to the Gods, society, or the care of others or self.
  • Wrath:Feelings of anger, rage, hatred, and vengeance.

In the past, other sins included Acedia (neglecting to do things that need doing) and Vainglory (unjustified boasting), but these were ultimately absorbed into other sins (Sloth and Pride, respectively).

Hell's Ultimate Sinners

While researching this article, I wondered if the Lords of Hell could be clearly mapped to the Deadly Sins. The answer turned out to be only in some cases. While sometimes an Archdevil is clearly associated more closely with one of the Sins above others, this isn't always so obvious. And in any case, the Lords of Hell are complex creatures and the masses of lore that exists for each of them clearly demonstrate each of them are personally guilty of multiple sins if not all of them. As the most cunning devils in the Nine Hells they would certainly be happy to exploit those sins in others.

Therefore, the Sin Devils that are the subject of this article series could reasonably be found in the service of any Archdevil. For what it's worth though, here's a list of the sins that seem most obviously associated with the various Lords. You might also consider this list when planning adventures or campaigns themed around one or more of the sins to decide which Archdevil might ultimately be behind events.

Archdevil Primary Sins
Asmodeus Pride, Avarice
Mephistopholes Avarice, Envy
Baalzebul Avarice, Pride, Wrath
Glasya Pride, Wrath
Levistus Lust, Pride
Fierna Envy, Lust
Belial Avarice, Lust, Pride
Mammon Avarice, Gluttony, Lust
Dispater Sloth
Bel Avarice, Wrath


Creating Sin Devils

This week I'm going to create two of the Sin Devils: avarice and wrath. There's no particular order here (other than I think Pride needs to be done last, as I see them as the most powerful kind so need to know what the CRs of the others will be). These are just the two I happened to start thinking about first! Next time I'll do two more, and in the third post of the series I'll round out the list with the final three.

Sin Devils are going to be a subgroup of devilkind, each of the seven types of which themed around one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Naturally this means that even of the seven Sin Devils will possess either spellcasting, special abilities, or both themed around their particular Sin. Before I get started, I also want to think about what makes a devil from a mechanical point of view, and where the Sin Devils fit into the hierarchy of the Nine Hells.

Devilish Traits

Looking through the Monster Manual, we can derive the following commonalities that evidence suggests should be possessed by all devils. These are traits that should also therefore be included in the statblocks of the Sin Devils created during this exercise. Unless, that is, there's a good reason to override them (for instance, an Ice Devil has Cold immunity whereas normally devils have Cold Resistance).

  • Damage Immunities fire, poison
  • Damage Resistances cold; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks that aren’t silvered
  • Condition Immunities poisoned
  • Senses darkvision 120 ft. Some greater devils may have truesight 120 ft. instead.
  • Languages Infernal, Common. All devils more powerful than an Imp have telepathy 120 ft. (which replaces Common).
  • Devil's Sight Magical Darkness doesn't impede the devil's darkvision (if it has any).
  • Magic Resistance The devil has advantage on saving throw against spells and other magical effects.
  • As potently magical creatures, devils generally either possess innate spellcasting (the only example of this is the Pit Fiend, which might suggest spellcasting is generally reserved for more powerful devils), or else unique special abilities that are overtly magical in nature. In the case of the Sin Devils I'm creating, it makes sense to theme spell choices and special abilities around the devil's particular Sin.
  • Even the powerful Pit Fiend only has four special traits, including its Magic Resistance as noted above. Keeping a cap on how many abilities a monster has is a good principle for any kind of creature, but particularly for non-legendary monsters which are expected to be encountered in groups. I'll try to stick to a four special trait maximum where I can. I might need to bend this rule, but will try to make sure that if I do most of the creature's special features are simple to adjudicate or don't apply in combat.
  • I'm going to make a similar commitment to trying to keep a Sin Devil's available action options straightforward, aiming for no more than two types of special action in addition to its regular attacks and multitattack options.

Sin Devils and the Infernal Hierarchy

When creating a new devil, it's necessary to consider where they fit into Hell's structured society. We already know that they're not Archdevils, but are they Lesser Devils or Greater Devils? And within that bracket, where do they slot in?

Given I'm choosing to theme these new devils around the cardinal sins, that suggests to me that they will be among the most effective tempters of mortals when it comes to their specific domain. In turn, that suggests that a Sin Devil is probably one of the most profitable forms to be granted, and therefore highly coveted. This chain of thought leads me to think the Sin Devils should be considered Greater Devils, and furthermore that they are likely among the more powerful.

The lowest CR of Greater Devil we have as a point of reference is the CR 11 Horned Devil. The CR 20 Pit Fiends are considered the generals of the Nine Hells, about as powerful as a devil can be without being an Archdevil. In between the two we have the CR 12 Erinyes and the CR 14 Ice Devil.

I think we need to pitch the Sin Devils around CR 15. It doesn't matter if they don't all turn out to be CR 15 exactly. In fact, from a design point of view it would be nice for each type to come out at a different CR and for at least some of those CRs to not yet be represented (eg. 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, and 19). At the same time, I don't want the CR range to be too wide, since that would suggest those Sins with more powerful servitors have significantly higher importance (the exception being Pride, as noted below). A difference of 3 or 4 is probably good, so let's say CR 13-16. This range demonstrates the power of the Sin Devils while protecting the dominance of the Pit Fiend.

Pride is the first among Sins, so it makes sense to me that Pride Devils be the most powerful variety of Sin Devil. If the rest of the Sin Devils are pitched to fall between CR 13-16, then the Pride Devil ought to be one higher than the highest CR among the others, up to CR 17.

The Role of a Sin Devil

So what, exactly, does a Sin Devil do? Since we know that a single deadly sin is at the very core of such a devil's existence, then it stands to reason that its role is to tempt other creatures into falling to that sin. If that's true, then we can reason that rather than serving the Lords of Hell on Baator itself, Sin Devils generally interact with denizens of the material plane, tempting mortals in the name of their Archdevil patron. As well as testing the willpower of individuals, both when summoned and uninvited, a Sin Devil also forms cults in the name of their Lord. As well as creating such cults, they are generally the face and voice of their Archdevil patron to that cult until such a time the cultists are deemed worthy of a personal appearance. Belial, for example, relies on Lust Devils to act as his vassal among orgiastic sex cults. Bel is so busy commanding Hell's armies in the Blood War he has little time to create cults, but loyal Wrath Devils do so in his name.

Sin Devils prefer to work alone, but owing to the narrow scope of their powers the Archdevils they serve may sometimes order them to act in groups or to alternate responsibilities. For instance, Mammon often pairs Avarice Devils and Lust Devils to serve his needs among his cults, whose members often revel in both greed and lechery.

The position of Sin Devil is coveted, and if performed well richly rewarded. While not as powerful as a Pit Fiend in literal terms, from a practical standpoint a Sin Devil may be as important a servant to an Archdevil as a general of their armies. Military might is only one measure of a Lord of Hell's power, after all. The number of mortal souls corrupted in their name can ultimately cement an Archdevil's standing and decide their aeons-old conflicts.

The exact status of a Sin Devil in the hierarchy of their Archdevil's court probably depends on the Archdevil.

For example, Bel is so busy commanding Hell's forces in the Blood War that he has far less influence on the material plane. He will have far more Pit Fiends in his service than he will Sin Devils, and those Pit Fiends probably have greater political influence. However, the few Sin Devils that do serve Bel (many of which are likely Wrath Devils) are so rare that they are also precious. While they may not serve as Bel's closest confidants, his Sin Devils most certainly enjoy a protected status. Any rivals, including Pit Fiends, would think twice before taking action against one, for fear of incurring Bel's wrath.

Devils better known for corruption of mortals likely employ as many or more Sin Devils than than they do Pit Fiends. In these cases Sin Devils enjoy greater political influence, but as individuals they are more expendable, easily replaced on their Lord or Lady's whim.

Due to their long history with their Lord and their current comfortable position within the hierarchy, a Sin Devil generally tends to be loyal. However, it is also a position that invites temptation. A Sin Devil has unprecedented access to mortals in their Lord's name. An ambitious Sin Devil can create their own cults, if they are able to hide such activity from their Lord. Theoretically, a Sin Devil could gather enough influence to unseat their Lord and claim their seat, though it is a strategy that requires great patience and incredible risk.

Any other type of Greater Devil can be transformed into a Sin Devil. Theoretically a Lesser Devil can become a Sin Devil, but it is usually a reward reserved for more powerful and loyal servants.

Making the Avarice Devil

When thinking about the appearance of the Avarice Devil, I immediately pictured a humanoid festooned in glittering riches. Multiple grasping arms sprang to mind, too. I decided to go with my first instincts, and also to add physical elements from one of the birds associated with thieving sparkling items (members of the corvid family). Since "magpie" doesn't immediately scream terror, I opted to go with a crow which is at least associated with horror elements.

Avarice Made Manifest

This creature needs one or two unique features that really speak to its theme.

First, I know I want the avarice devil's to have a power that lets it inspire material greed. The consequences of that greed need to be translated into the game mechanics to have effectiveness during a combat encounter. It strikes me that it would be interesting to have that power be an aura, the effects of which would debuff potential attackers. Here's what I came up with:

Aura of Covetousness.

Any creature that starts its turn within 20 feet of the avarice devil must make a DC ?? Wisdom saving throw, unless the wrath devil is incapacitated or the devil chooses to omit them from the aura, which it always does for its allies. On a failed save, a target becomes obsessed with a physical object the avarice devil chooses that belongs to the nearest creature other than the avarice devil that the target can see. While so obsessed, the target has disadvantage on all attack rolls and ability checks that don't help it acquire the object of its obsession. In addition it is so distracted that attack rolls against it have advantage, and it has disadvantage on its own saving throws. An affected creature may repeat its saving throw at the end of each of its turns. If a creature's saving throw is successful, the creature is immune to the avarice devil's Aura of Covetousness for the next 24 hours.

The theme of avarice also lends itself to the idea of taking things that don't really belong to you. Theft, in other words. It makes sense therefore that the avarice devil can frustrate PCs by taking things from them... and then using those items against them. This is obviously an ability that will make the avarice devil loathed by players! That's the right emotional response but we need to be careful this ability isn't an unavoidable gotcha since nobody likes having their cool toy taken. The success chances of the ability should be weighted in the target's favour. Players should also know this feature exists and be given the opportunity to ready themselves for it, but that's a matter of DM advice (see the Avarice Devils and Theft from Players sidebar) rather than a matter of mechanical concern.

Here's how I've expressed this ability:

Covetous Grasp (recharge 5-6).

The avarice devil makes an melee attack with disadvantage using a free hand, for which it has a +? attack bonus. On a hit, the avarice devil magically steals one object the target is either wielding or wearing on their person. The stolen object disappears from the target and reappears in the equivalent location on the avarice devil's own body. If an avarice devil is already wearing or carrying an item in a particular location (such as a belt on its waist, a crown on its head, or a weapon in a hand), the avarice devil cannot steal an object that would fill it. The avarice devil can immediately begin using any features of an item it steals that don't require attunement. A sentient item that is compatible with the avarice devil's alignment and objectives and prefers the devil to its previous wielder relaxes its attunement requirement, allowing the avarice devil to attune immediately.

While this is a very nasty feature, some defense of the player and their item is built in (note that it is always rolled with disadvantage). The avarice devil can offset the disadvantage by using its Covetous Grasp against a target currently affected by its Aura of Covetousness, making for a rough combo.

My first draft of this feature prevented the avarice devil from using any attuned feature, but the more I thought about it, I liked the narrative possibilities of an avarice devil stealing an intelligent evil item and the item deciding to betray its previous owner in favour of a more evil, more powerful creature.

Proficiency

As a Greater Devil, the avarice devil probably has a Proficiency of +4 or greater. I'll assume a +4 for now, and make adjustments as necessary later.

Movement

I can't think of a compelling reason to give the avarice devil a special movement mode. As a medium creature it has a walking speed of 30 ft.

Abilities

The most important ability for any Sin Devil, as consummate tempters, is going to be Charisma. All Greater Devils are intelligent, for they are cunning creatures. Sin Devils especially need to be cunning to trick mortals into forfeiting their souls. Wisdom should be reasonably high, since a Sin Devil cannot afford to be the one who comes out the worst of an exchange with a potential victim.

For an avarice devil, the most important physical ability score is Dexterity (it's a devil associated with sneakiness and theft), but Strength and Constitution aren't particularly significant. It can use its Dexterity for its attacks.

I go with my gut and assign the abilities as I see fit, coming up with the following array:

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
14 (+2) 22 (+6) 15 (+2) 22 (+6) 20 (+5) 24 (+7)


Skills

I feel it's important that Sin Devils add their proficiency to Deception, Persuasion, and Insight. As tricksters, they need to be as well equipped as the rules allow them to be to do their jobs. I considered adding Intimidation to that list, but most Sin Devils would only use Intimidation to remind someone already in their clutches of their place. It won't come up often, and a +7 to that check is pretty good to start with. Intimidation might be appropriate for the wrath and pride devils, but I don't see a strong enough case for the avarice devil.

Saving Throws

Sin devils are Greater Devils almost on par with a Pit Fiend. They deserve a few strong saves. I opted to give them Dexterity, Constitution, and Wisdom to protect them from most of the common threats a higher level party might throw at a Greater Devil.

Resistances, Immunities, and Vulnerabilities

There's no case for giving the avarice devil any unique exceptions here. They can have same resistances and immunities as other devils.

Senses and Languages

Certain powerful devils such as the Erinyes (CR 14) and Pit Fiend (CR 20) have Truesight instead of Darkvision. Given I'm designing the sin devils to be on par with these creatures, it makes sense to give my sin devils truesight 120 ft. too. It fits thematically, too. Good luck escaping the gaze of a sin devil once it has you in its grasp! This decision means they needn't possess the Devil's Sight feature.

As for languages, sin devils are easily powerful enough to possess telepathy 120 ft. in addition to Infernal.

Other Special Features

In addition to its Aura of Covetousness, the avarice devil has Magic Resistance and Magic Weapons in common with other devils. This makes for a total of three special features. I could add a fourth, but I already know that the avarice devil has at least one special attack action. In the interests of keeping the statblock streamlined, I'll leave it at that.

Actions

As a high CR creature, the avarice devil is going to have multiattack. I've already decided it has six arms, so that's a good number. With that many attacks per round, it's likely that I'll be looking to give the avarice devil lower damage attacks, whereas if I'd opted to have fewer I'd be designing attacks that pack a big punch.

But what kind of attacks? Firstly, a theme of grasping and theft has been present throughout this design and that makes me think of nets. I decide that it carries a net in one of its hands. But, since this is a devil, the net is both stronger and cruelly barbed.

Barbed adamantine-weave net.

Melee Weapon Attack: +12 to hit, range 5/15 ft., one target. Hit: A Large or smaller creature hit by the net is restrained until it is freed. The net has no effect on creatures that are formless, or creatures that are Huge or larger. While restrained, a creature takes 5 (1d10) piercing damage at the beginning of each of its turns. A creature can use its action to make a DC 15 Strength check, freeing itself or another creature within its reach on a success, but causing that creature to take 11 (2d10) piercing damage as the barbs are pulled free. A DC 20 Dexterity check made by the creature within the net frees it without incurring any damage.

Dealing 10 slashing damage to the net (AC 15) also frees the creature, but results in 11 (2d10) piercing damage to the creature. The net is also destroyed, but can be repaired by the avarice devil over the course of a short rest. The net is resistant to nonmagical damage.

I based this on the standard net, but increased the escape DC, AC, and hit points to represent its greater weight and bulk.

If the avarice devil is throwing nets at people, jabbing weapons start to look sensible, so I looked into the option of equipping it with spears. However, its claws will use its high Dex for attack and damage and its spears will use its far inferior Strength. In the end, it's hard to see why it would pick the spears over its own natural weapons so I decided to abandoned that idea.

Therefore I decide that the remaining five hands are unarmed, and it uses them to make claw attacks dealing 1d4 damage each (+6 from its Dex mod). It also makes sense to me that the avarice devil can substitute one of its claw attacks out to use its Covetous Grasp as part of a multiattack action.

The final multiattack entry looks like this:

Multiattack.

The avarice devil makes one attack with its barbed net, and as many claw attacks as it has empty hands (normally five). It may substitute its covetous grasp for one of its claw attacks.

Putting it together: Offensive Challenge Rating

I know enough now I can start working out where this creature fits. Damage per round is calculated based on the maximum damage a monster can deal over the first three round. For the sake of calculating its damage per round, we'll assume the avarice devil hits with its barbed net and that the target fails to escape from the net until the third round. This means we also need to factor in the automatic damage it receives when it escapes the net.

In the first round, the avarice devil deals the following average damages with its attacks: 7 (the barbed net), and 40 (its 8 claw damage multiplied by 5). Total: 47

In the second round, the avarice devil deals 48 damage (its 8 claw damage multiplied by 6) and a further 5 damage to the target trapped by its net. Total: 53

In the third round, the avarice devil deals 48 damage (its 8 claw damage multiplied by 6) and a further 5 damage to the target trapped by its net, and that creature causes itself to take 11 damage when it breaks free. Total: 64

(47 + 53 + 64) / 3 = 54. Referring to Monster Statistics by Challenge Rating on page 274 of the Dungeon Master's Guide, we can see that as it stands the avarice devil's offensive challenge rating (hereafter referred to as its OCR) is 8.

However, we know its attack bonus is +10 (proficiency +4 +6 from its Dex), and the attack bonus listed for a CR 8 creature is +7. For every +2 by which a monster's CR exceeds the expected attack bonus, its OCR increase by 1. Presently, there's a difference of +3. But the avarice devil's Aura of Covetousness is a factor in its offensive ability.

The avarice devil makes attacks against the victim of its Aura with advantage, which is similar to Pack Tactics, which the Monster Features table on page 281 tells us increases the monster's effective attack bonus by 1. Technically, the Aura also grants this benefit to the avarice devil's allies, but unlike Pack Tactics it can be thwarted by a save so for now let's treat them as roughly equivalent. It's also worth noting that the avarice devil can also cause similar results with its net, but that's specific to one target and we can expect the net to be destroyed fairly quickly. If we need to later on, we can err on the side of caution and adjust the avarice devil up to account for the benefits of its Aura and net.

For now, then, we're treating the devil's attack bonus as +11, raising its OCR from 8 to 10. The target CR range is 13-16, so that means one of two things: either its defensive challenge rating (hereafter referred to as DCR) has to 16 or higher so that its final challenge rating averages out within the target range, or we need to increase its OCR.

Let's look at the first option.

Putting it together: Defensive Challenge Rating

Before I figure out how many hp the devil would need to have to get a DCR of 16, I'm going to look at how its various features adjust its DCR.

Firstly, damage resistances and immunities: with four resistances, we need to factor those into the calculation. Since there are only two immunities, which are both easily bypassed, it should be enough to adjust for the resistances only. For a creature of CR 13-16, the monster's hit points should be multiplied by 1.25.

The devil has magic resistance, which the Monster Features table tells us is equivalent to a +2 AC.

Finally, the Aura of Covetousness can cause disadvantage on attacks rolls for the devil's enemies. The closest equivalency I could find between this and a Monster Feature is Superior Invisibility. The Invisible condition grants advantage on a creature's attack rolls and disadvantage on attack rolls against the creature. That's pretty similar to what the Aura is doing. Thus, the Aura is treated as a further +2 to AC.

The devil's Dexterity bonus is +6 and I've not given it a natural armour bonus, so its actual AC is 16 while its effective AC is 20. A monster's final DCR is adjusted upward by 1 for every 2 by which its effective AC exceeds the listed AC for its hit points.If I want to make sure the devil's DCR is 16, that means I need for its effective hit points (including that 1.25 multiplier for its resistances) land it squarely on DCR 14, since it will be adjusted up twice.

We can work backward from this: The listed hp range for CR 14 is 266-280. To know what the monster's actual hit points should be, we simply need to figure out a number that is lower than that range and that when multiplied by a quarter of itself arrives at a total in the range.

By a little trial and error I arrive at 220, which divided by 4 is 55. 220 + 55 = 275, squarely in the CR 14 range. 220 is also at the extreme top edge of CR 10. It also seems like a reasonable amount of hit points for a powerful, boss-type monster. Based on that, I decide to stick with the decision to aim for a DCR of 16 rather than increasing the monster's OCR.

The trick now is to figure out how to arrive at 220 hit points (or close enough to 220 hit points). As a medium creature, the avarice devil would use d8 hit dice. The average of each die is 4.5, and its Con mod for each of those dice is +2. Each die is therefore worth 6.5 hit points.

To figure out roughly the right number of hit dice for this creature, I divide my optimal target (220) by 6.5, for a result of 33.8.

Obviously there needs to be a whole number of Hit Dice. I also know that I shouldn't really increase the Hit Dice by rounding up, because 220 was already the maximum amount within the target range. So I try rounding down to 33, and multiply 33 by 6.5 for a result of 214.5. That rounds down to 214.

Now to check if everything still works out:

  • Firstly, 214 is still within the CR 10 hit point range.
  • Second, I multiply it by 1.25 for a result of 267.5 (again, rounded down to 267).
  • Finally, I check what CR is associated with the hp range that 267 falls into and find that it is high enough to still be considered CR 14.
  • Since that's true, the monster's AC adjustments will increase its final DCR to 16 as planned!

Great! Now we know that our monster has 214 average hit points (which is equivalent to 33d8 plus 33 times its +2 Con modifier, eg: 66).

A final note: as nasty as it could potentially be, Covetous Grasp is not factored into the monster's CR. It is impossible to predict what effects that this feature will have on a fight, if indeed there are any. Even when the monster is able to steal a useful item from the player, it does sacrifice some of its own damage to do so, and it may not succeed in its attempt. Finally, we need to remember that Fifth Edition doesn't include magic items in its maths, so even were the monster to steal a more powerful item from a PC it doesn't necessarily mean the fight becomes harder (particularly if the devil can't attune the item and use it itself).

The Avarice Devil



An avarice devil is a Sin Devil whose role is to inspire feelings of material greed in mortals, and grow existing covetous urges until a mortal becomes a prisoner of their own materialistic urges. Therefore, they reward selfish desires for material things in order to make a sinner covet more and more.

The appearance of an avarice devil is humanoid, but they stand taller than a human at around eight feet in height. The devil possesses three pairs of double-jointed arms, each ending in slender-fingered hands tipped by claw-like nails. Its head is that of a crow, and it possesses horns that sweep back and curl down and forward like those of a mountain sheep. Feathers cover its avian head down to its collarbone and to the small of its back. An avarice devil's skin and feathers are both the colour of polished gold, and its red eyes gleam like rubies.

Avarice devils are typically adorned with fine raiments and jeweled rings. They carry heavy nets that appear to be made of gleaming metal, somehow woven into sturdy thread.

Avarice Devil
Medium fiend, lawful evil

Armor Class

16

Hit Points

214 (33d8 + 66)

Speed

30 ft.
STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
14 (+2) 22 (+6) 15 (+2) 22 (+6) 20 (+5) 24 (+7)

Saving Throws

Dex +10, Con +6, Wis +9

Skills

Deception +11, Insight +9, Persuasion +11

Damage Resistances

cold; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks that aren't silvered

Damage Immunities

fire, poison

Condition Immunities

charmed, exhaustion, frightened, poisoned

Senses

truesight 120 ft.; passive Perception 15

Languages

Infernal, telepathy 120 ft.

Challenge

13 (10,000 XP)

Aura of Covetousness.

Any creature that starts its turn within 20 feet of the avarice devil must make a DC 19 Wisdom saving throw, unless the wrath devil is incapacitated or the devil chooses to omit them from the aura, which it always does for its allies. On a failed save, a target becomes obsessed with a physical object the avarice devil chooses that belongs to the nearest creature other than the avarice devil that the target can see. While so obsessed, the target has disadvantage on all attack rolls and ability checks that don't help it acquire the object of its obsession. In addition it is so distracted that attack rolls against it have advantage, and it has disadvantage on its own saving throws. An affected creature may repeat its saving throw at the end of each of its turns. If a creature's saving throw is successful, the creature is immune to the avarice devil's Aura of Covetousness for the next 24 hours.

Magic Resistance.

The avarice devil has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Magic Weapons.

The avarice devil's weapon attacks are magical.


Actions

Multiattack.

The avarice devil makes one attack with its barbed net, and as many claw attacks as it has empty hands (normally five). It may substitute its covetous grasp for one of its claw attacks.

Claw.

Melee Weapon Attack: +10 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d4 +6) slashing damage.

Barbed adamantine-weave net.

Ranged Weapon Attack: +10 to hit, range 5/15 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d10 +2) piercing damage. A Large or smaller creature hit by the net is restrained until it is freed. The net has no effect on creatures that are formless, or creatures that are Huge or larger. While restrained, a creature takes 5 (1d10) piercing damage at the beginning of each of its turns. A creature can use its action to make a DC 15 Strength check, freeing itself or another creature within its reach on a success, but causing that creature to take 11 (2d10) piercing damage as the barbs are pulled free. A DC 20 Dexterity check made by the creature within the net frees it without incurring any damage.

Dealing 10 slashing damage to the net (AC 15) also frees the creature, but results in 11 (2d10) piercing damage to the creature. The net is also destroyed, but can be repaired by the avarice devil over the course of a short rest. The net is resistant to nonmagical damage.

Covetous Grasp (recharge 5-6).

The avarice devil makes a melee attack with disadvantage using a free hand, for which it has a +10 attack bonus. On a hit, the avarice devil magically steals one object the target is either wielding or wearing on their person. The stolen object disappears from the target and reappears in the equivalent location on the avarice devil's own body. If an avarice devil is already wearing or carrying an item in a particular location (such as a belt on its waist, a crown on its head, or a weapon in a hand), the avarice devil cannot steal an object that would fill it. The avarice devil can immediately begin using any features of an item it steals that don't require attunement. A sentient item that is compatible with the avarice devil's alignment and objectives and prefers the devil to its previous wielder relaxes its attunement requirement, allowing the avarice devil to attune immediately.


Making the Wrath Devil

This time round, I'm making the wrath devil. The image that immediately pops into mind is rather traditional for a devil: red-skinned, bestial, large and imposing. Because I think a creature of rage and vengeance should be able to quickly engage I also imagine wings. It likely also causes fear in those around it. The problem is, all this is stuff that's also true of the Pit Fiend, so the wrath devil needs a few characteristics to set it apart. Lets give it a bull-like head and the wings of a vulture, which are tattered as though by many trials. Blood drips constantly from its eyes and from the tips of its clawed fingers. I imagine the devil having a brute force approach to combat, so but it is still a cunning devil rather than a mindless berserker. Rather than a greataxe, then, I chose to give it a slightly more sophisticated greatsword.

Wrath Made Manifest

Although Sin Devils are all about corruption, the wrath devil is uniquely placed to also be a warrior. A Wrath Devil could serve their Lord just as well in their army as they could corrupting mortal souls, perhaps serving as second in command below a Pit Fiend general.

Although it does step somewhat on the toes of a Pit Fiend, a Fear Aura is just so appropriate for a wrath devil I think it's unavoidable.

One aspect of wrath that I really want to bring to the fore is its manifestation as a force for vengeance. I like the idea that a wrath devil is more powerful against a creature after that creature attempts to harm the devil. With that in mind I designed the following feature:

Vengeance.

By dealing damage to the wrath devil, successfully affecting it with a spell, or imposing a condition upon it, a creature becomes the current target of the wrath devil's vengeance. The wrath devil can Dash as a bonus action as long as the Dash moves it toward the target of its vengeance by the most direct route (it can alter course to move around obstacles or avoid opportunity attacks). Additionally, the wrath devil's greatsword attacks deal an additional 2d6 damage against the current target of its vengeance.

Similarly to the way the avarice devil could inspire material greed, the wrath devil needs to be able to inspire blind, uncontrolled fury. I opted not to make this an aura, given I've already given the devil a fear aura. Instead, it's a single-target ability. Here's what I came up with:

Incite Frenzy (recharge 5-6).

The wrath devil targets a creature within 60 feet who must make a DC 20 Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the target is overcome with feelings of blind rage. On their turn, they drop anything they are carrying that can't be used as a melee weapon, move as fast as they can towards the nearest creature and make as many melee attacks as they can against that creature. The target may repeat its saving throw at the end of each of its turns. If a creature's saving throw is successful, the creature is immune to the wrath devil's Incite Frenzy for the next 24 hours. If an affected creature is restrained, its frenzy ends after 1d4 turns, but it is still vulnerable to further instances of the wrath devil's Incite Frenzy.


Note the option to stop a berserk ally by restraining them somehow. It's not a good option, but it might be better than suffering the continuing onslaught of your own friend.

For its third unique feature, I wanted an interesting way to inflate the wrath devil's own damage. Given its theme, it makes sense for the wrath devil to be a fearsome combatant who is a true terror to face. Somewhere along the way I was grabbed by the idea that it could summon additional floating swords and control them with its mind. It's a striking visual, and seems appropriately scary.

Summon Swords (recharge 5-6).

The wrath devil summons 2d4 flying swords, which are identical to the statistics on page 20 of the Monster Manual except they have a +12 attack bonus (the wrath devil's proficiency and Charisma bonus). The flying swords appear in any unoccupied spaces of the wrath devil's choice within 40 feet of it. They take their own turns on the wrath devil's initiative count, but though they are treated as independent creatures the swords are actually under the wrath devil's control. They cannot take a turn if the devil is stunned or paralyzed, and they disappear if the devil falls unconscious or they move more than 120 feet away from the devil.

The wrath devil can control no more than eight flying swords. If summoning additional flying swords would result in more than six swords existing at one time, the wrath devil can choose to make any number of its current swords disappear as part of this action in order to summon fresh replacements.

Proficiency

As a Greater Devil, the wrath devil probably has a Proficiency of +4 or greater. As I want the wrath devil to excel in combat, I'm going to choose +5 as my starting point.

Movement

It's important that a Wrath Devil strikes fast and can reach any foe. For that reason, I gave it wings and a fly speed of 60 ft.

Abilities

As with the avarice devil, Charisma is important to the wrath devil. Although they create wrath in others, wrath devils themselves don't fight blindly: they can be as cold and calculating as any devil. Their Intelligence and Wisdom are probably a little lower than those of the avarice devil, but they're nothing to sneer at. As large creatures and warriors, wrath devils need a high Strength and Constitution.

As before I assigned the abilities according to my gut:

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
24 (+7) 15 (+2) 22 (+6) 19 (+4) 18 (+4) 24 (+7)


Skills

I've already decided Sin Devils are all proficient in Deception, Persuasion, and Insight to serve them when corrupting mortalkind. It also seems reasonable to give the wrath devil Intimidation.

Saving Throws

Sin devils are Greater Devils almost on par with a Pit Fiend. They deserve a few strong saves. I opted to give them Dexterity, Constitution, and Wisdom to protect them from most of the common threats a higher level party might throw at a Greater Devil.

Resistances, Immunities, and Vulnerabilities

Wrath devils have same resistances and immunities as other devils.

Senses and Languages

Wrath devils have truesight 120 ft.

Wrath devils possess telepathy 120 ft. in addition to Infernal.

Other Special Features

In addition to its Fear Aura and Vengeance, the wrath devil has Magic Resistance and Magic Weapons in common with other devils. This makes for a total of four special features. Its Incite Frenzy and Summon Swords powers are special actions.

Actions

It goes without saying that the wrath devil has a multiattack option, but as it deals a lot of damage per hit (4d6 +7 for a large greatsword, plus an additional 2d6 against the target of its vengeance) and deals a significant amount of damage with its summoned swords, it doesn't need to make many attacks. It can have up to eight flying swords which deal an average of 40 damage per round. Even two attacks with its own greatsword, Its damage per round with all factors included averages 96. This is a lot for a single monster to be dealing on one turn, so two greatsword attacks seems adequate for now.

Putting it together: Offensive Challenge Rating

Assuming the devil can summon all eight sword in its first turn, it deals an average of 40 damage on that turn (with the swords).

On its second turn, it can deal an average of 56 damage itself (4d6 + 7 + 2d6 vengeance, twice) plus 40 damage with its summoned swords. Total: 96

The same is true on the 3rd turn.

(40 + 96 + 96) / 3 = 77.

77 puts the monster's effective OCR at 12, for which the expected attack bonus is +8. Since the monster's Strength is +7 (as is their Charisma, for the purposes of their summoned swords attack bonus) and their Proficiency is +5, their attack bonus is +12, resulting in a two step increase of the monster's OCR to 14.

Truthfully, I'm not sure how strongly Incite Frenzy will factor into the monster's OCR. If it's used on the right target, if that target fails its save, and then continues to fail its save in subsequent rounds, and always assuming its nearest creature is one of its allies, Incite Fury could be an incredible damage boost. Players will naturally do their best to make sure that the nearest creature to a frenzied ally is either the wrath devil or one of its minions. I'm going to speculatively treat it as a further +2 attack bonus, increasing the devil's OCR to 15.

Putting it together: Defensive Challenge Rating

The wrath devil has the same resistances as the avarice devil, resulting in a 1.25 multiplier to its hit points.

The devil also has a Fear Aura. We can treat this as though it were a dragon's Frightful Presence. Monster Features tells us Frightful Presence increases a monster's effective hit points by 25% but only if the monster is CR 10 or lower. Fear Aura therefore has no impact on the CR.

The wrath devil also possesses magic resistance, which we know is equivalent to a +2 AC.

We don't have to factor the hit points of the summoned flying swords into the equation. Why? Because we're assuming that they're always around when calculating our OCR.

We already know the monster's OCR is 15. I decide to aim for an equivalent DCR. After all, it makes sense to me that as probably the fiercest combatant out of all the sin devils the wrath devil should be one of the most dangerous of them to face.

The Monster Statistics by Challenge Rating table tells us that appropriate hit points for CR 15 are 281-295.

As we did with the avarice devil, to factor in the devil's resistance we need to figure out a number that is lower than that range and that when multiplied by a quarter of itself arrives at a total in the range.

Given the top of the range is 290, 230 seems like it should work out. 230 divided by 4 is 57.5. 230 plus 57.5 is 287.5, right in the middle of the target range.

Since the wrath devil is large it has d10 hit dice averaging 5.5 hit points, and adds +6 to each one from its Constitution bonus. Therefore each hit die is worth 11.5. The trick now is to figure out how to arrive at 220 hit points (or close enough to 220 hit points). As a medium creature, the avarice devil would use d8 hit dice. The average of each die is 4.5, and its Con mod for each of those dice is +2. Each die is therefore worth 6.5 hit points.

230 divided by 11.5 turns out to be an exact number: 20!

Therefore, a wrath devil has 230 hit points (20d10 + twenty times its Con bonus, which is 120).

Because we want the wrath devil to have a DCR of 15 exactly, its AC should be whatever is appropriate for that CR. A look at the Monster Statistics by Challenge Rating table shows that an AC of 18 is appropriate for CR 15. Since the wrath devil only has a Dex of +2, that means it has +6 worth of natural armour.

The Wrath Devil

A wrath devil targets mortals who are quick to anger, fanning the flames of their rage until it consumes them and all around them. The most ambitious wrath devils choose instead to target lovers of peace, setting obstacles in their path that test their patience and turn once benign, forgiving mindsets to crave darker satisfactions.

A wrath devil is a large, imposing fiend. Humanoid in form but inhumanly powerful of build, the wrath devil is covered in tough reptilian scales of a deep crimson and possesses a pair of large wings. They are sometimes mistaken for pit fiends by those who have no reason to know the difference, but several characteristics mark wrath devils as different from the fiendish generals. It walks on digitigrade legs like those of a great cat, it has the head and horns of a great bull, and it flies using tattered feathered wings like those of a vulture. Blood weeps constantly from a wrath devil's eyes, and the foul ichor drips from the tips of its clawed fingers as well.

The wrath devil carries a large greatsword that only a creature of its significant bulk could hope to wield.

Wrath Devil
Large fiend, lawful evil

Armor Class

18 (natural armor)

Hit Points

230 (20d10 + 120)

Speed

40 ft., fly 60 ft.
STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
24 (+7) 15 (+2) 22 (+6) 19 (+4) 18 (+4) 24 (+7)

Saving Throws

Dex +7, Con +11, Wis +9

Skills

Deception +12, Insight +9, Intimidation +12, Persuasion +12

Damage Resistances

cold; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks that aren't silvered

Damage Immunities

fire, poison

Condition Immunities

charmed, exhaustion, frightened, poisoned

Senses

truesight 120 ft.; passive Perception 14

Languages

Infernal, telepathy 120 ft.

Challenge

15 (13,000 XP)

Fear Aura.

Any creature hostile to the wrath devil that starts its turn within 20 feet of the wrath devil must make a DC 20 Wisdom saving throw, unless the wrath devil is incapacitated. On a failed save, the creature is frightened until the start of its next turn. If a creature's saving throw is successful, the creature is immune to the wrath devil's Fear Aura for the next 24 hours.

Magic Resistance.

The wrath devil has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Magic Weapons.

The wrath devil's weapon attacks are magical.

Vengeance.

By dealing damage to the wrath devil, successfully affecting it with a spell, or imposing a condition upon it, a creature becomes the current target of the wrath devil's vengeance. The wrath devil can Dash as a bonus action as long as the Dash moves it toward the target of its vengeance by the most direct route (it can alter course to move around obstacles or avoid opportunity attacks). Additionally, the wrath devil's greatsword attacks deal an additional 2d6 damage against the current target of its vengeance.

Actions

Multiattack.

The wrath devil makes two attacks with its greatsword.

Greatsword.

Melee Weapon Attack: +12 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 21 (4d6 +7) slashing damage.

Incite Frenzy (recharge 5-6).

The wrath devil targets a creature within 60 feet who must make a DC 20 Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the target is overcome with feelings of blind rage. On their turn, they drop anything they are carrying that can't be used as a melee weapon, move as fast as they can towards the nearest creature and make as many melee attacks as they can against that creature. The target may repeat its saving throw at the end of each of its turns. If a creature's saving throw is successful, the creature is immune to the wrath devil's Incite Frenzy for the next 24 hours. If an affected creature is restrained, its frenzy ends after 1d4 turns, but it is still vulnerable to further instances of the wrath devil's Incite Frenzy.

Summon Swords (recharge 5-6).

The wrath devil summons 2d4 flying swords, which are identical to the statistics on page 20 of the Monster Manual except they have a +12 attack bonus (the wrath devil's proficiency and Charisma bonus). The flying swords appear in any unoccupied spaces of the wrath devil's choice within 40 feet of it. They take their own turns on the wrath devil's initiative count, but though they are treated as independent creatures the swords are actually under the wrath devil's control. They cannot take a turn if the devil is stunned or paralyzed, and they disappear if the devil falls unconscious or they move more than 120 feet away from the devil.

The wrath devil can control no more than eight flying swords. If summoning additional flying swords would result in more than six swords existing at one time, the wrath devil can choose to make any number of its current swords disappear as part of this action in order to summon fresh replacements.


Next time

In the next post of the series I'll be creating two more sin devils, in whichever order inspiration strikes!