Wednesday, 13 December 2017

5e: Clockwyrm

A clockwyrm is a highly advanced magi-mechanical construct created by a long-forgotten race. No one knows if they were originally native to Mechanus, but they have lived on the Clockwork Nirvana for millenia, and have long since developed their own free will. Even so, it is in the nature of a clockwyrm to serve, and they have no shortage of potential patrons on Mechanus, a plane full to bursting with powerful creatures that share a clockwyrm's rigid sense of order.

They can most often be found in the service of Inevitables, helping those creatures to enforce the universal laws. Some even serve Primus as guardians of the modron hierarchy. Rarely, a powerful creature or mortal from another plane might visit Mechanus or reach out via magic and persuade a Clockwyrm to assist in imposing their idea of a better-ordered world on their home plane. They might choose to align themselves with any Lawful creature with a suitable vision of order. The sort of radical changes that a clockwyrm would approve of are rarely in the interests of the free minds and spirits that happen to dwell on that plane, so a clockwyrm generally finds themselves working alongside individuals many would call villains, placed to oppose a story's heroes.

Clockwyrm
Huge construct, unaligned

Armor Class

20 (natural armor)

Hit Points

232 (15d12 + 135)

Speed

40 ft., fly 80 ft.
STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
23 (+6) 10 (+0) 28 (+9) 10 (+0) 10 (+0) 15 (+2)

Skills

Perception +10

Saving Throws

Dex +5, Con +14, Wis +5, Cha +7

Damage Immunities

fire, lightning, poison, psychic; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks that aren't adamantine.

Condition Immunities

charmed, exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned

Senses

darkvision 120 ft., truesight 120 ft.; passive Perception 10

Languages

Understands all languages but can't speak

Challenge

19 (22,000 XP)

Immutable Form.

The clockwyrm is immune to any spell or effect that would alter its form.

Legendary Resistance (3/day).

If the dragon fails a saving throw, it can choose to succeed instead.

Magic Resistance.

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

Magic Weapons.

The clockwyrms's weapon attacks are magical.

Precise Planar Traveler.

The clockwyrm can cast plane shift on itself and up to eight willing creatures twice per long rest. It can arrive at a specific destination as long as the destination is known to it. Additionally, if the clockwyrm is banished, when it returns from Mechanus it can reappear in any unoccupied space it wishes within 80 feet of the space it occupied when it was banished.
Actions

Multiattack.

The clockwyrm can use its Frightful Presence. It then makes three attacks: one with its bite and two with its claws.

Bite.

Melee Weapon Attack: +12 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 18 (1d10 +7) piercing damage plus the clockwyrm's choice of 5 (1d10) fire or 5 (1d10) lightning damage.

Claw.

Melee Weapon Attack: +12 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 14 (2d6 +7) slashing damage.

Tail Blade.

Melee Weapon Attack: +12 to hit, reach 15 ft., one target. Hit: 20 (2d12 +7) slashing damage.

Frightful Presence.

Each creature of the clockwyrm's choice that is within 120 feet of the dragon and aware of it must succeed on a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or become frightened for 1 minute. A creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success. If a creature's saving throw is successful or the effect ends for it, the creature is immune to the clockwyrm's Frightful Presence for the next 24 hours.

Breath Weapon (recharge 5-6).

The clockwyrm uses its choice of the following three breath weapons. Even when this ability is recharged, the clockwyrm cannot use the same breath weapon twice in a row.

Fire Breath.

The clockwyrm exhales fire in a 90-foot line that is 5 feet wide. Each creature in that line must make a DC 22 Dexterity saving throw, taking 63 (18d6) fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

Gas Breath.

The clockwyrm exhales poisonous gas in a 60-foot cone. Each creature in that line must make a DC 22 Constitution saving throw, taking 63 (14d8) poison damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

Lightning Breath.

The clockwyrm exhales a 30-foot orb of lightning centered on a space within 60 feet. Each creature in that line must make a DC 22 Dexterity saving throw, taking 49 (9d10) lightning damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. If a creature fails their saving throw by 5 or more, lightning arcs from them to one additional target outside the orb, who must be no more than 15 feet from the orb and must not already have been hit by arcing lightning. A secondary target takes 22 (4d10) lightning damage on a failed save, or half as much damage if successful.
Legendary Actions
The clockwyrm can take 3 legendary actions, choosing from the options below. Only one legendary action option can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature's turn. The clockwyrm regains spent legendary actions at the start of its turn.

Detect.

The clockwyrm makes a Wisdom (Perception) check.

Tail Attack.

The clockwyrm makes a tail attack.

Wing Attack (Costs 2 Actions).

The clockwyrm beats its wings. Each creature within 10 ft. of the clockwyrm must succeed on a DC 19 Dexterity saving throw or take 14 (2d6 + 7) bludgeoning damage and be knocked prone. The clockwyrm can then fly up to half its flying speed.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

5e Fallout: Monstrous Amounts of Monsters

When it comes to blog posts, I normally like to write enough to stay at least a few weeks ahead. For various reasons, that hasn't happened recently. Last week got busy. I had a family trip planned already, and then the funeral of a family friend cropped up. The end result is that I don't actually have a proper blog post to share this week.

What I do have is a spreadsheet.

See, it's become increasingly clear just how mammoth a project Fifth Edition Fallout really is. Largely, it's because of the monsters! See, I'm not just making one statblock per type of creature. Since the beginning of the Fallout franchise enemies have come in multiple, increasingly more powerful variants. I think including those variants is useful, because it keeps the creature type relevant across a much larger span of levels, and it also ensures a Fifth Edition Fallout has plenty of level-appropriate options to choose from when planning an adventure. But including them isn't necessarily easy, especially as the number of variants of each creature have gone up with time.

I was conscious that there were already a lot of statblocks in the Fifth Edition Fallout sourcebook. There had to be: after all, I counted the ones in the most recent Bugs update and that accounted for 63 all on its own. And I knew there were still plenty of creatures left, many of which I had forgotten until recently (it was only while browsing through the Fallout wikia at random that I stumbled across Spore Carriers and remembered about their existence). It seemed sensible to me to trawl through the wiki to generate a comprehensive master list, so that I wouldn't miss out on anything important. With that in mind I created the aforementioned spreadsheet which would track two things:
  1. All statblocks already added
  2. All statblocks that need to be added, broken down by category (providing the secondary benefit of a count of creatures belonging to each category). To derive this list I went through the creatures and robots pages on the Fallout wikia for each Fallout game, and listed out each variant of each creature. I made a few exceptions, as noted below:
    • Creatures from Fallout Tactics were not necessarily included, as that game is considered non-canon. However, I did include the game's version of the radroach as the Midwestern radroach, as it helped fill out the otherwise sparse list of radroach variants. I considered also including giant wasps, but they fill the same role as the stingwing (if you want to use them, simply reskin a stingwing statblock).
    • Similarly, creatures that were to be included in the canceled Fallout 3 by Black Isle Studios, codenamed Van Buren, have not been considered. Which is not to say that they couldn't be added later, but non-canonical creatures without much to go on about their abilities aren't exactly a priority.
    • A few variants were so specific that they didn't seem that essential: included in this list are the Zion Mantis, as well as Automatron junk robot variants created by the Mechanist or the Rust Devil Raider gang. Again, I'm not ruling out ever adding these creatures, but for now I consider them nonessential - not to mention easily homebrewed by the GM.
    • Finally, there were some creatures for which I couldn't see much design room to separate them from other creatures. The giant wasp already mentioned was one such. Another group were the Lobotomites from the New Vegas add-on Old World Blues. The only difference between them and regular raiders is their near-mindlessness. There's no reason not to use Raider statblocks and simply reduce their Intelligence and Wisdom scores accordingly.
    • A few creatures on the list I want to add are a little more speculative: the Ghoul Whale, based on bones found in Far Harbor, the Rad-Dolphin, based on the corpses of sea creatures found on shores in Fallout 4, and the Horned Kangaroo, remains of which appear in both Fallout and Fallout 2. Clearly these creatures exist, but I'll be designing them without any reference points. I could have excluded them, but I think each of these creatures would be a fun and worthwhile addition. I particularly like the idea of having a few more aquatic enemies. Admittedly, survivors don't often want to go in the irradiated water, but power armour and diving suits could lead to those exact situations, and it would be nice if there were a few things in the water with them other than mirelurks.

Note that for the purposes of these lists I've also counted templates as though they were statblocks.

If you're interested in these lists, find them here. You can use them to check out what's still in the pipeline, and see if your favourite Fallout monster is definitely coming (and if not, absolutely reach out to me on twitter about it!)

So what have I learned? Firstly, that there are 259 statblocks still to add (considering I've actively excluded some for now but may later change my mind, maybe more). That's an intimidating number! The fact that a large portion of these statblocks will be variants of the same creature helps, of course, but that doesn't mean it won't be a big, time-consuming task. Furthermore, I can tell you from my experience so far that working on multiple similar statblocks over and over can be on the tedious side.

On the other hand, 153 have already been added to the game! If I do say so myself, that's a pretty big achievement. And it proves that the remaining number is in fact possible, even if it will take quite some time to reach the finish line.

I also now have a count of the number of creatures in each of the categories I've broken things down into, which is useful for planning. For instance, fully 86 of the 259 remaining belong to the Beasts category, which is the next one I'm working on. And that's not even accounting for aquatic creatures, which I opted to break out into a category of their own: they account for another 24 statblocks. I already suspected I'd likely be breaking Beasts up and doing them in more than one sitting, and now it's looking likely that it might take up the next three or four updates, let alone two.

And yet, the fact that the Beasts category is so large is strangely comforting. It feels like once that is complete, the end will be in sight. Sure, there'll still be around 150 to do, but those are broken up into much smaller groupings and will hopefully feel more manageable.

Combing through the Fallout wikia proved to be a useful exercise in a handful of other ways, too. I've thought of a few possible templates I might want to add; and I have two new subspecies to add in under Human as playable options: Dwarf, and Slag. I'm planning to treat these as essentially templates you can add-on to the Wastelander Subrace. The Dwarf's speed will be reduced to 25 feet but will gain a slight benefit in exchange. Slags will gain Darkvision at the expense of Sunlight Sensitivity, similar to the base game's Drow.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

5e Fallout: Intimidating Insects and Calamitous Cazadores!

Hot on the heels of last fortnight's addition of Mirelurks, the Gatorclaw, and miscellaneous updates, the Fifth Edition Fallout bestiary gets a massive new update today! On top of that, there are some other changes which I'll go over below.

If you missed the last update, perhaps the most exciting thing was the addition of a new character sheet In addition to that, this time round I made some changes to the Races section and I created a new Fifth Edition Fallout character sheet!

Vault Dweller Personal Record
Vault Dweller Personal Record


The updated version of the Fifth Edition Fallout sourcebook, along with the character sheet and additional resources are now available to download from the the Fifth Edition Fallout sourcebook. You can Fifth Edition Fallout hub.

New Monstrous Additions to Fifth Edition Fallout

After releasing the Fifth Edition Fallout sourcebook I've been polling the twitter community to decide which creatures would be added to its bestiary next. After the first poll, Feral Ghouls, Raider Bosses, and Ghost People joined the Raiders, Robots, and a handful on animals already included. The next update included Super Mutants, Nightkin, Centaurs, and Tunnelers. Last time, Mirelurks and the Gatorclaw were added to the game.

The most recent poll indicated people wanted to see Bugs join the Fifth Edition Fallout ranks! This was an expected result, as the insects have been doing well in the polls since they started and a few have been vocal in their wish for Cazadores! Well this update delivers, providing a whopping 62 new statblocks.

Bugs

  • Ants, Large
    • Small Forager Ant (CR 0)
    • Small Soldier Ant (CR 1/8)
    • Small Glowing Ant (CR 1/4)
    • Forager Ant (CR 1/4)
    • Soldier Ant (CR 1/2)
    • Glowing Ant (CR 1)
    • Overgrown Forager Ant (CR 2)
    • Overgrown Soldier Ant (CR 3)
    • Overgrown Glowing Ant (CR 5)
  • Ants, Giant
    • Giant Ant (CR 1/4)
    • Giant Ant Soldier (CR 1/2)
    • Giant Ant Warrior (CR 1/4)
    • Sidebar: Giant Ant Variants, including Fire Ants
    • Giant Ant Queen (CR 8, legendary)
    • Sidebar: Hive Mind
    • Glowing Ant (CR 1)
  • Ants, Swarms
    • Swarm of Forager Ants (CR 1)
    • Swarm of Soldier Ants (CR 3)
    • Swarm of Glowing Ants (CR 5)
  • Bloatflies
    • Bloatfly (CR 1/8)
    • Black Bloatfly (CR 1/2)
    • Festering Bloatfly (CR 1)
    • Glowing Bloatfly (CR 3)
  • Bloodbugs
    • Bloodbug (CR 1)
    • Red Widow Bloodbug (CR 3)
    • Infected Bloodbug (CR 4)
    • Glowing Bloodbug (CR 6)
    • Vampiric Bloodbug (CR 7)
  • Bloodworms
    • Bloodworm Larva (CR 1/8)
    • Venomous Bloodworm Larva (CR 1)
    • Glowing Bloodworm Larva (CR 2)
    • Bloodworm (CR 2)
    • Venomous Bloodworm (CR 5)
    • Glowing Bloodworm (CR 6)
    • Bloodworm Queen (CR 9)
  • Cave Crickets
    • Cave Cricket (CR 1/2)
    • Cave Cricket Hunter (CR 2)
    • Cave Cricket Piercer (CR 4)
    • Glowing Cave Cricket (CR 5)
  • Mantises, Giant
    • Giant Mantis Nymph (CR 1/8)
    • Giant Mantis (CR 3)
    • Giant Mantis Female (CR 5)
  • Radroaches
    • Radroach (CR 1/8)
    • Glowing Radroach (CR 1/2)
    • Midwestern Radroach (CR 2)
    • Midwestern Giant Radroach (CR 4)
  • Radscorpions
    • Bark Scorpion (CR 1/2)
    • Bark Scorpion Hunter (CR 2)
    • Radscorpion (CR 4)
    • Radscorpion Hunter (CR 6)
    • Glowing Radscorpion (CR 7)
    • Radscorpion Stalker (CR 8)
    • Radscorpion Predator (CR 11)
    • Deathskull Radscorpion (CR 12)
    • Radscorpion Queen (CR 17, legendary)
  • Stingwings
    • Stingwing (CR 1/2)
    • Stingwing Darter (CR 2)
    • Stingwing Skimmer (CR 4)
    • Glowing Stingwing (CR 5)
    • Stingwing Chaser (CR 6)

    Cazadores

    • Young Cazador (CR 3)
    • Cazador (CR 6)
    • Giant Cazador (CR 9)
    • Specimen 73 (CR 16, legendary)


Other Updates

  • New Look, new Layout!
    • The PDF has a new look, with a lighter background.
    • It also includes some superb fanart by the following artists (check them out!): rustysteel, maXKennedy, and JefWu. The PDF looks absolutely gorgeous witrh their art included. I've reached out to additional fan artists, and I'm hoping future versions will be even more colourful. If you happen to create Fallout fan art or know anyone who does and who might be willing to allow credited use of their work, I'd love to hear from you.
    • The Terrors of the Wastes section has been better organised: the section is more clearly divided into creature categories, with each type of creature within a category getting their own heading (which also means better bookmarking in the PDF). Advice on how the section is organised and should be navigated has been added.
  • The Races section has been renamed "Species" which is more appropriate for the genre.
  • The Backgrounds section has been moved between the Species and Class sections.
  • Typo fixes throughout text, corrections to Weapons tables, and a handful of minor monster statblock corrections.
  • New GM advice section, containing important considerations for a //Fallout// game that don't count as new rules.
  • Sidebar added to the Super Mutant Suicider regarding when and how to use it in the game.
  • The Deathclaw and Alpha Deathclaw have both had some statblock adjustments to correect an error in CR calculation (the CR of each remains unchanged).
  • A smattering of minor typographical corrections elsewhere in the text.


Next for Fifth Edition Fallout

Fifth Edition Fallout Wiki

Those of you who follow Spilled Ale Studios on twitter may already know that I'm working on getting a wiki version up and running. This project is going well, but there's a lot of monster statblocks still to port over. This is going to take quite a lot of time, and the wiki would be live much quicker with help. If anyone is willing to volunteer a little bit of their time to help move the statblocks over to the wiki, please reach out!

Vault Dweller Personal Record
Fifth Edition Fallout Wiki Preview

Creature Knowledge DCs

As I've been adding creatures to the wiki, I've been figuring out what a character might know about a creature when they encounter it, and what I think are appropriate DCs for that knowledge. I've always felt it was a shame this sort of information wasn't provided in the 5e Monster Manual.

When a new creature is encountered in-game but one or more of the characters might conceivably have either encountered that type of creature before or heard stories about them from other travelers, it's inevitable that players will want to know what if anything their characters have already learned. Set DCs for monster knowledge checks are a helpful tool when this happens. They can also help settle what is player knowledge versus character knowledge if you're concerned that a player is metagaming too much: "your character might have heard stories about that vulnerability—roll and see!"

The reason I'm adding this information to the work-in-progress wiki first is simply that it's a natural fit to think about the knowledge checks as I go through the motions of porting each type of creature in order. I don't want to add this new subsystem to the PDF until its complete; when all creatures in the game have Knowledge DCs, they'll be added to the PDF en masse.

Fall Britannia

Another project I'm slowly working on is a primer for Fifth Edition Fallout gaming in the wastelands of the United Kingdom. This is obviously completely non-canon, and my personal take. Among other things it will include a bit of history, some of the geography (focusing particularly on London - write what you know after all), new pre-War corporations, and of course new wasteland creatures and robots. Even if you're not interested in running a game in this setting, it will be a case study in the sorts of things a GM might wish to consider when homebrewing a new area not explored in the video games.

Content from this will end up on the wiki too (clearly marked non-canon).

I'm not sure when this one will be ready, but definitely don't expect it until next year.

What creatures are next?

If you want to have your say about what gets added to the game next, check out the twitter poll:



Your Thoughts

As usual I'd love to hear your thoughts about any aspect of Fifth Edition Fallout. Please also reach out if you catch any errors so I can fix it asap!

Monday, 20 November 2017

5e: Xanathar's Guide to Everything Review

Today I'm going to go over the content of Xanathar's Guide to Everything, giving some of my thoughts along the way.


Xanathar's Guide To Everything Cover


Introduction

The book starts with an introduction offering guidance on its contents and how best to use it. This section also reiterates some rules DMs might easily misinterpret or forget. This is a useful list, and I found at least one of them cleared up a misunderstanding on my partm: the order in which you apply modifiers to damage.
(1) any relevant damage immunity, (2) any addition or subtraction to the damage, (3) one relevant damage resistance, and (4) one relevant damage vulnerability.  
I'd assumed that additions and subtractions such as the -3 bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing from Heavy Armor Master would be applied at the very end and have been running it that way at my table to date. Doing it last does make a minor difference: resistance is slightly better (by 1 hit point), and vulnerability is more dangerous (by 3 hit points).


Chapter 1: Character Options

The first chapter is broken down by class, and offers some advice on some ways you might use to bring a character of that class to life, including three or four example thematic elements per class. 
  • For the Barbarian, these are personal totems, tattoos, and superstitions. 
  • The Bard gets a defining work, an instrument, and an embarrassment.
  • A Cleric chooses their temple, keepsake, and a secret.
  • Druids select a treasured item, guiding aspect, and mentor.
  • A Fighter picks a heraldic sign, instructor, and signature style.
  • The Monk gets to decide their monastery, monastic icon, and master.
  • Paladins have a personal goal, symbol,  nemesis, and a temptation.
  • The Ranger has a view of the world, homeland, and sworn enemy. 
  • A Rogue chooses their guilty pleasure, an adversary, and a benefactor.
  • The Sorcerer has an arcane origin, a reaction (the way people responded to your sorcerous awakening), and a supernatural mark.
  • Warlocks define their patron's attitude, special terms of their pact, and a binding mark.
  • The Wizard describes their spellbook, an ambition, and an eccentricity.
Each theme comes with a 1d6 random table of examples. On the whole, these are an excellent source of ideas although some are definitely more exciting than others. In some cases, a theme listed for one class could easily be used for members of other classes.


The Ranger Archetypes


Archetypes

Xanathar's presents 32 archetypes, mostly new though some have been reprinted that first appeared in the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide. As a person who never purchased that book due to a lack of need for its setting lore, I appreciate the inclusion of some of its content in Xanathar's. Obviously it's less useful for people who already have them. It's not even a case of gathering everything in one convenient place, as other archetypes weren't ported over.

The other archetypes were first seen in the various Unearthed Arcana, but have been updated to reflect feedback.

Some stray observations:
  • It seems that generally, the archetypes I found most problematic in Unearthed Arcana either didn't make the cut or have had some necessary updates.
  • The Path of the Ancestral Guardian has great mechanics, but they don't fit well with the theme. What use are powerful protective ancestral spirits that happily protect your allies, random people with no connection to your tribe, but won't lift a single spectral finger to protect you, their beloved descendant? Guardian spirits is a cool concept that should be in the game, and a barbarian defender is also well worth including, but I don't think they go together. At least not how they've been expressed here. 
  • The Grave Domain is not at all what you'd think! The domain is a decent alternative to the Life Domain if you want to play a healer, while being more fun and flavourful (at least in my opinion). You definitely won't out-heal a Life Cleric, but you're respectable: 
    • The 1st level feature Circle of Mortality gives you the ability to  maximise any dice rolled when you cast a healing spell on a creature with 0 hit points, with the interesting implication that you might be better off letting your allies fall down and picking them back up again (this is often a tactically sound choice even without this archetype, but it's really reinforced here). This feature relies on you having at least one healing spell (eg. Cure Wounds or Healing Word), but by a strange quirk no such spells appear on the Domain's bonus spells list. The onus is on you to select the spells which you need to function properly in this archetype, otherwise Circle of Mortality is completely wasted. It's not a huge deal as it's a fairly obvious and easily avoided trap, just a little odd. Particularly since Bane doesn't feel like a great fit, and Cure Wounds or Healing Word could have easily occupied that slot.
    • At 2nd level, Path to the Grave lets you give enemies vulnerability to the next attack that hits them before your next turn. It's not healing, but you'll be helping win the fight more quickly, which means you and your friends get hit less and take less damage. That's better than healing! This is a particularly potent ability if you have someone in your party who can deal high damage on a single attack, such as a Paladin or Rogue. 
    • The 6th level ability Sentinel at Death's Door lets you turn critical hits against allies into regular hits—again, not technically healing, but reducing damage in the first place is always better! Especially when it only costs a reaction, saving you the action cost of a Cure Wounds spell. 
    • The 17th level ability Keeper of Soul lets you transfer life essence from a dying creature nearby to one of your allies, healing them a number of hit points equal to the creature's Hit Dice. 
  • The Circle of Dreams is misleadingly named, as the first time you get an ability that's even vaguely dream-like is at 14th level when you acquire Walker in Dreams. This feature lets you finally cast dream, along with scrying, and teleportation circle. A little late in my opinion. Given these are all 5th-level spells, which are normally available to those classes available to cast them at ninth level, Walker in Dreams really could have been the archetype's 10th level feature. Circle of Dreams is really a fey-themed archetype, and it's pretty good at that. But if you wanted something that was all about manipulating dreams and create waking delusions and nightmares, you won't really find it here.    
  • The Cavalier's Unwavering Mark is interesting: it looks like you can mark multiple creatures at once, potentially up to as many as you have attacks during your turn. Considering all such creatures have disadvantage if they attack anyone other than you.  There's a built-in limit on the amount of special attacks you can make against your marked targets, but even when you use those up you can keep marking enemies to cause them to suffer that disadvantage. This all makes you an unparalleled defender, and that's before you get the ability to increase the AC of adjacent allies as a reaction at 7th level.
  • The Samurai's Rapid Strike effectively gives the Fighter one additional extra attack every time they have advantage to trade (to a maximum of once per turn). They can combine this with the advantage they get on all attack rolls while using their Fighting Spirit (making one of those attacks without advantage but gaining the extra attack which, technically, is made with advantage due your Fighting Spirit meaning it's really no sacrifice at all—the net result of the way these abilities interact effectively just means you get one more attack than usual and one of them has no advantage). A Samurai will really stand out when in a party with one or more other characters that can help him or her get advantage on other turns. If they can keep making that extra attack over an entire combat, they'll really add up. They'll be particularly potent if you're using the optional flanking rule from the Dungeon Master's Guide.
  • The Way of the Drunken Master's Redirect Attack is pretty crazy. For 1 ki, the monk turns a missed attack against them into an automatic hit against another adjacent creature. Granted, that ki could have been spent on two attack rolls of the monk's own, but (1) both of those attacks can miss, and (2) the average damage of an unarmed strike is probably a lot lower than the sort of damage many monsters are throwing around. It feels a bit wrong that there's not an attack roll or saving throw involved here. 
  • You might find the good-aligned Celestial warlock wierd and off-theme. So did I at first, but then I thought about it more deeply and wrote a recent article refuting that point of view
  • The Hexblade in Unearthed Arcana had a very weird, off-theme ability called Shadow Hound. This was replaced, but unfortunately the new feature is an equally strange fit. Accursed Spirit summons a specter to fight for you. I don't know about you, but I don't pick an archetype about a pact with a powerful and dangerous sentient weapon to gain the ability to summon minions.  


Learning Beast Shapes



This subsection for the Druid class offers some useful guidance on which animals a 1st-level druid might already know, based on the natural environment they grew up in: arctic, coast, desert, forest, grassland, hill, mountain, swamp, underdark, and underwater. The animals are arranged in tables, listing their CRs and their special movement modes. Unfortunately, the tables make it clear that there's a massive disparity between some of the environments' access to animal forms and others.

Learned Beast Shapes of a Coastal Druid


Eldritch Invocations

14 mostly interesting new warlock invocations are offered. My favourites are probably Cloak of the Moon (you no longer need to sleep), Cloak of Flies (an aura that grants advantage on Intimidation but disadvantage on Persuasion, and also deals poison damage to creatures in the aura), and Relentless Hex (lets you teleport to a target you've cursed, great for bladelocks). Gift of the Ever-Living Ones is interesting, though I don't really understand the logic behind it—while your familiar is within 100 feet, any dice rolled to cure your wounds are maximised.

This Is Your Life

This section is one of the best things about Xanathar's Guide. Over a series of stages and using a series of random tables full of inspiration-fueling ideas, it presents a method of randomly determining the key points of your character's backstory.

Although I normally like to have complete control over my own characters, so many of the ideas on these tables resonated with me I think I'd actually enjoy letting the dice fall where they may and figuring out how to piece the results together into a fascinating story.

These tables don't dictate what your character's class or background need to be, but they will certainly suggest a logical direction if you were so inclined to create your character wholly at random. And if you already picked but the results seem to lack compatibility, that may not actually be a problem—figuring out how a seemingly unrelated sequence of events could lead into joining a class could result in a far more fascinating story than you would otherwise have told.

A few of the results can lead to minor mechanical boons such as extra starting gold, a potion, or a common magic item. But there's nothing here that will have a significant positive or negative impact on your character's build.

Racial Feats

I'm not really a fan of racial feats. I feel that if an ability is important enough to be conceptually tied to a race it should be part of the race to begin with, not an optional resource the player must buy into. It's especially odd a concept in 5e where every race other than humans fails to get a feat until 4th level. Particularly when the feat changes physical traits.

This time round they're not too bad, though. Most actually offer abilities that you could justifiably see a member of that race learning to control only later on in their career.

There's really only two that represent physical qualities, suggesting a sudden physical transformation:

The dragonborn's Dragon Hide, which grants a Strength, Constitution, or Charisma bonus, a base AC of 13 and 1d4 damage claws.  I'm guessing this feat is meant for sorcerers and wizards, because it certainly doesn't seem to be for anyone else. Monks and Barbarians already have equivalent AC-boosting abilities which won't stack, warlocks can wear studded leather armour which is almost as good or take the Armor of Shadows invocation, and 1d4 damage natural weapons are practically a null gain for any character. But sorcerers and wizards can get essentially the same effect, albeit not "always on", from casting mage armor. Effectively, you're spending a feat to save yourself a 1st level spell known and spell slot. I'm not convinced that's a good trade.

The tiefling's Infernal Constitution increases their Constitution, grants cold and poison resistance, and advantage you from the poisoned condition.

Some of the racial feats are questionable in that I don't see why they aren't available to everyone. Surely any sufficiently practiced archer could gain the benefits of Elven Accuracy? Are we so married to the idea that only humans along with half-elves and half-orcs, are creative and flexible enough to become a Prodigy?



Chapter 2: Dungeon Master's Tools

This part of Xanathar's is a random grab bag of new and expanded rules. At first it may not seem that exciting, but look closely and you'll find some of the best content in the book lies within this chapter. For my money, that includes the guidance for combining skill and tool proficiencies, the alternative encounter building guidelines, revisited traps, revisited downtime rules, and the lists of new common magic items.

Simultaneous Effects

The first part of this chapter is a simple paragraph describing how to adjudicate when multiple things happen exactly at the same time. The rule is simple: whoever's turn it is picks the order in which those things are resolved. 


Falling

The next section revisits falling, and gives a rate of falling (500 feet per turn—clearly someone at Wizards of the Coast did the same research and came to the same conclusions about compromising reality and game balance that I did when I looked at falling.) so we finally have a RAW answer for how long it takes to hit the ground if you fall a great distance. How to handle a flying creature that falls is also discussed.

This section is not as detailed as I would have liked to see. As far as I can tell, the main sticking point in the falling rules is really how to resolve what happens when someone is pushed, and this remains conspicuously absent from any official ruling. RAW, the victim of the push doesn't get any kind of saving throw, but I tend to rule it that way in my games. It only seems fair to not let a push power to be an instant win button for players or monsters. Even with that houserule in place, I'm still warier than I would like to be of running encounters in high places or above lava lakes because it's just so easy for a carefully crafted encounter to go to ruin in such a location. Especially if you have a Warlock with the Repelling Blast invocation (and it's one of the no-brainers on the list—show me a warlock that doesn't have this, and I'll frankly be surprised).

As mentioned in the aside above the falling rules is an area of the game I looked at myself, ultimately suggesting a houserule that introduced two new conditions: teetering (a state that put you on the brink of falling but allowed a window to save yourself at the end of the round), and falling. If you'd like a little more clarity in these suggestions, go take a look!

Sleep

Next is a section on adjudicating matters surrounding sleep:

  • Rules for waking someone (hint—a loud noise, such as a combat happening right next to you because a monster caught your lookout by surprise, automatically wakes you up) 
  • The effects of sleeping in armour. These are punitive enough that you'll rarely want to do it, but players who often get ambushed in their sleep will have a difficult choice to make.
  • Rules for going without a long rest. Essentially, each day you go without rest you make a DC 10 Constitution save with the DC increasing by +5 each subsequent day, earning a level of exhaustion on a failure. This seems about right to me: I used to suffer from insomnia and regularly ended up staying awake for up to 3 days. I wouldn't usually find my abilities were significantly impaired on the second day, but inevitably I would become exhausted and conk out toward the end of the third. A DC 10 save is fairly easy to get so that maps pretty well, though had I written the rule and based it on my own experiences I might have said you're effectively fine on the second day (any tiredness should just be roleplayed but doesn't need to be mechanical) and start the DCs off at 15 on the day three. All in all though, it does the job. 

Adamantine Weapons

Finally! This was a pretty major oversight in the core rules: creatures in the Monster Manual whose damage resistance could be overcome using adamantine weapons (golems and elementals—eg, creatures made of earth, stone, and metal), but no rules for those weapons were to be found. Only adamantine armour appeared in the magic items section. This really should have been in the DMG, but at least we have it now.

In addition to their occasional ability to overcome monster resistance, adamantine weapons are also especially good at breaking objects, dealing critical damage on a hit to those objects. Make sure to bring your adamantine battering ram along next time you plan a siege!

It's not spelled out here, but since this question recently came up in my own game let me clarify an isssue here: a construct is not an object, it's considered a creature. You won't be automatically critting that iron golem with your adamantine sword. But if you think about it, by overcoming its damage immunity your weapon's ability to smash inanimate objects is already factored in. Now we see why it only overcomes the resistance of constructs and elements!

Tying Knots

This was a slightly surprising addition to me at least, but I like that it's included. The rule defines tying and escaping knots as Intelligence (Sleight of Hand) checks, though you can also use Dexterity (Acrobatics) to escape. This seems good, combining your smarts and the nimbleness of your fingers into a single combined ability/skill check.

They clearly state in this section that this is intended to be an example of applying the Skills with Different Abilities variant, I suppose to push people toward using it. For the life of me I don't know why they didn't make that rule official in the first place.

Tool Proficiencies

This next section acknowledges the disparity between tool proficiencies and skill proficiencies, and seeks to address that by giving you reasons to want to pick tool proficiencies. They've approached this by coming up with new rules that give you perks if you combine both a skill and a tool. Firstly, if both a tool and a skill seem to apply to a check, you have advantage on the check if you have both proficiencies. The DM is also encouraged to grant the character with both an additional benefit of some kind when that character succeeds on the check, such as additional information or by simulating the benefits of another type of check. What does that even mean? I'll quote the example of this they give:
For example, a character proficient with mason’s tools makes a successful Wisdom (Perception) check to find a secret door in a stone wall. Not only does the character notice the door’s presence, but you decide that the tool proficiency entitles the character to an automatic success on an Intelligence (Investigation) check to determine how to open the door.
It's all good on paper. I don't know about you though, but I was concerned that Rogue players might start arguing they have advantage on benefits every time they pick locks due to their Sleight of Hand and Thieves' Tools proficiencies. Happily, the definition of Sleight of Hand in the Player's Handbook, makes this an impossible combo:
Whenever you attempt an act of legerdemain or manual trickery, such as planting something on someone else or concealing an object on your person, make a Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check. The DM might also call for a Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check to determine whether you can lift a coin purse off another person or slip something out of another person's pocket.
It's pretty clear that Sleight of Hand is for illusions, pickpocketing, and chicanery only. Manual dexterity is implied in all those tasks of course, but that's why they are tied to Dexterity, and also why Thieves' Tools is normally tied with Dexterity. The overlap is already factored in.

This chapter then goes onto list each type of tools, broken down into the following sections:

Components. Lists the items that actually make up the tools. This is a really useful inclusion.
Skills. Lists the skills that might combine with these tools to grant advantage on certain checks. Skipping ahead to the Thieves' Tools, I note that Wizards of the Coast are way ahead of me here. They don't think Thieves' Tools combines with Sleight of Hand either! The skills that do combine are History ("Your knowledge of traps grants you insight when answering questions about locations that are renowned for their traps") as well as Investigation and Perception ("You gain additional insight when looking for traps, because you have learned a variety of common signs that betray their presence.").
Special Use.  Each tool now grants its own special feature. In the case of Thieves' Tools, you set your own trap with whatever you have to hand during a short rest. Tinker's Tools let you repair hit point damage to a damaged object. Mason's Tools let you deal double damage to brick walls. These abilities are not made equally, many are purely fluff such as the Painter's Supplies ability to draw a quick work of art (eg. a decent quality diagram or map). The value of these sorts of abilities lies in how often they come up in the campaign and whether any other character would have been allowed to do them anyway.
Sample DCs.  The final section provides a table with example tasks you might attempt using the tools and typical DCs for those tasks.

All in all, this is a very welcome inclusion, though as I've said the tool proficiencies still aren't in any way equal, with the tools that were most likely to be picked anyway (you know the ones) generally being the most functional ones in the new system, too.

Cook's Utensils


Spellcasting

This section addresses some common issues with the spellcasting system:

  • Can you perceive a caster casting their spell when the effect isn't obviously from them? The answer is yes: you can perceive a spell being cast if it has a verbal, material, or somatic component. But if a special ability like Subtle Spell removes the need for those components, the action of casting a spell is hidden. 
  • Can you identify a spell as it's being cast? Yes, but it costs a reaction to make an Intelligence (Arcana) check.
Now, you might already have spotted that this means you can't both identify a spell and cast counterspell to stop it. According to Jeremy Crawford this is intentional:











When you actually read the wording of counterspell, it's clear that this is all quite correct. "You attempt to interrupt a creature in the process of casting a spell." does suggest that the spell is not fully cast, and therefore not known, at the time of the counterspell. If our players have counterspell., we need to get into the habit of saying "the monster is casting a spell", not "the monster casts fireball", and wait to see if that player wants to respond.

I for one like the rule this way but my players had a massive grumble when I told them about this. I doubt any of them will be picking it! 
  • The section also addresses identifying a spell after it has already been cast (it costs your action).
  • There's some guidance on exactly what happens if a spell gets cast on an invalid target (hint—it boils down to you wasting the spell). The most useful line of this paragraph is the description of what happens if your spell normally fails on a saving throw: you perceive it as though the invalid target succeeded their saving throw, therefore you don't learn that they are an invalid target.
  • The section rounds out with guidance on using templates and tokens to adjudicate spell area effects when playing on a grid. This section is no use to me, but I imagine very welcome to new DMs. That said, I think the tokens idea is a complete waste of page space and ink. Mapping out a spell's area using a bunch of d6s (or other tokens), placing one in each affected square, sounds like a terrible way to handle it. It would take so long to do each time. Making some templates in advance of the game is so much superior an idea, it should have been the only one suggested. 


Adjudicating Spell Areas


Encounter Building

The next part of the book makes official the new, simpler encounter building guidelines first presented in Unearthed Arcana. I haven't gone over the tables with a fine tooth comb but I think they're unchanged.

A welcome new addition is the Quick Matchups table. This table gives you a very quick, very dirty way of deciding what CR of monster is equivalent to a single character of your party's level. The table has columns for 1 monster, 2 monsters, 4 monsters.

So say my party are level 13, and I have 5 players. I can see that a CR 6 monster is equivalent to 1 level 13 character, as are 2 CR 4 monsters or 4 CR 2 monsters. I could combine monsters of those CRs together in whichever combinations to get a roughly balanced encounter for my party. I might choose 5 CR 6 monsters, 20 CR 2 monsters, or any of the combinations in between.

This table is well-suited for when you have to plan your next game in a hurry, or when your characters go off-track and you're caught off guard. It doesn't say so here (probably because it's so rough even the designers can't always be sure), but I'd assume that the encounters you build using the rules generally count as "medium" encounters. You could bump the CRs of a few of the creatures in the fight up if you want to increase it to "hard".


Random Encounters

This is definitely a case of your mileage may vary. For those who like random encounters, the 44 d100 tables in this chapter will be a dream come true. For others, far less so. But even if you don't generally use random encounters, be aware that not all the encounters on the tables are combat encounters. Some describe random points of interest, like "The corpse of an adventurer that carries an intact explorer’s pack and lies atop a longsword" or "Stairs chiseled into the side of the mountain that climb 3d20 + 40 feet before ending abruptly." It's worth looking at these tables for ideas on how to add that little extra spark to the description of a journey in your game.

Now that I think about it, it would have been nice had Xanathar's included additional tables which solely included points of interest and random NPC meetings. without any combat. Even those of us who don't find randomly generated combats a fun and worthwhile inclusion could have benefited from an easy way to spice up our journeys.

At any rate, these tables are really exhaustive and really good, particularly if your group happen to like combats with random creatures. Each of 11 environments (Arctic, Coastal, Desert, Forest, Grassland, Hill, Mountain, Swamp, Underdark, Underwater, and Urban) are broken up into four tiers based on the party level (1-4, 5-10, 11-16, and 17-20, mapping to the tiers of play set out in the DMG) and each tier gets its own d100 table. When monsters are encountered the number of them is randomly generated, which can mean encounters which are too dangerous for the party. The section is prefaced with a paragraph titled "Flight, or Fight, or … ?" which points out that the party have the option to avoid the combat, flee it, or try to negotiate, while the DM may if they wish fudge the numbers.

Traps Revisited

Comparing this with the Unearthed Arcana version side by side, the rules  first blush seems mostly unchanged, but wording has been modified in just a few places for clarity and brevity. A couple of traps are adjusted in small ways, such as the AC and resistance of statues now being listed in the Poisoned Tempest trap. But essentially, what we saw in UA has gotten through unscathed.

Downtime Revisited

The downtime rules are also similar to what we've seen before, but there are more notable changes. Foils are now called Rivals (an easier word to remember, for sure), and the way they work has been tightened up slightly. The example NPCs have had a few cosmetic changes: Myron Rodemus has become Marina, and the Temple of Pholtus is now personified in the person of its High Priest, a man named Cheldar.

In general, changes made to the downtime activities boil down to slashed costs, reduced crafting times, and clarifications of intent. There are now new modifiers on the Buying Magic Items table for low magic and high magic campaigns, and the rules for whether a specific magic item is available when the characters actively seek it have been changed slightly. The carousing rules now make an allowance for a lower class character to carouse with nobles using a disguise. The rolls involved in Pit Fighting have changed slightly, and you can now use Dexterity (Acrobatics) to work. As an acrobat, presumably.  At the DM's option a favour you earn from Religious Service can now represent divine intervention from your deity. A pretty nice addition.

Interestingly a few of the complications tables have been slashed either from d10s to d8s or from d8s to d6s. Perhaps those complications were deemed too problematic?

I noticed what I think is a discrepancy between the magic item crafting by rarity table and the wording of this downtime activity. You're meant to divide the cost of the item by 50 to determine the amount of workweeks required to craft the item, but the numbers on the table are far lower than that would actually imply. They are far more reasonable numbers, however, so for now I'm assuming that the table is correct and the text hasn't been properly updated to reflect the new ruling. Or maybe I've missed something. I reached out to Mike Mearls and Jeremy Crawford via twitter. If either of them sees my tweet and has the time to reply, I'll update this article to reflect that.

Training


Awarding Magic Items

This is an alternative system for handing out magic items. Instead of rolling on random tables, you basically have a budget of items from each tier and rarity which you then spend as you select items.  This variant uses the same underlying math, and the explanations offer an interesting peek behind the hood.

If you enjoy the randomness of a hoard this isn't for you, but if you want greater control over the items your characters receive (which can be a good thing for them too, given you'll generally be picking items they can use) then this is a nice option.

Common Magic Items

The final part of this chapter is also my favourite. The Dungeon Master's Guide included very few magic items that were considered common rarity: it literally only offers the Potion of Climbing and the weakest Potion of Healing. That's finally rectified here, and even better these items aren't expendable potions! They have permanent effects, albeit those effects seldom have a significant mechanical purpose. They're great flavour though, and some certainly could be useful. Most of the items are excellent for ideas, sparking thoughts in my mind immediately as I read them. I can't wait to put the Cloak of Billowing (make it billow dramatically as a bonus action!) into the hands of my party's vain barbarian chieftainess, for instance. As a player, I'm pretty confident I could wreak all sorts of havoc with access to Heward's Handy Spice Pouch. There's plenty of others I'd love to get hold of too. To name just a few: I could have a lot fun with the Charlatan's Die, which rolls any result you will it to; And I can see a lot of benefit in owning a Pole of Collapsing, a 10-foot pole which collapses down to only 1-foot on command.

Magic Item Tables

Also included are magic item tables that group items from the Dungeon Master's Guide and Xanathar's Guide to Everything by rarity and whether they are considered minor or major items (terms used by the Awarding Magic Items system).

There are also useful sidebars in this chapter about what happens when there is no dawn for magic items to recharge, such as on a plane of energy, and whether a game even needs magic items.



Chapter 3: Spells

This chapter brings together many spells already printed in the Elemental Evil Player's Guide with a collection of new inclusions.

The chapter opens with some advice on adding new spells to a campaign, and makes a good point about handling this with care for divine characters who have access to their entire class spell list, as it can be overwhelming for a player.

A spell list divided by class and spell level follows.

They've tried to include new spells for everyone, but with mixed success. By far and away the most spells are for arcane casters (although perhaps, given the advice mentioned above, this was a deliberate choice). Druids do well, but that's not surprising considering a good chunk of the spells here came from the Elemental Evil Player's Guide and are therefore pretty nature-themed.

I won't go through the spells in detail, but I will say I think the new ones are generally good and fun additions. Some highlights include a handful of what you might call "shelter" spells—spells designed to give you a safe place to rest. There are three of these spells:

  • the 7th-level cleric spells temple of the gods creates a physically temple that can protect those within it from outsiders and scrying, and boosts any healing they receive while inside. The temple lasts for a day, but if it's recast in the same location every day for a year it becomes permanent, which is a nice touch.
  • the 6th-level druid spell druid grove creates a temporary sacred haven that lasts for a day. You can cast it outdoors or undergroufd, but as buildings and structures are excluded from the affected area that essentially prohibits you from using it inside the corridors of a typical dungeon. In a cavern system, however, you're all good. You'll get a lot of passive and active defenses for the grove which essentially amount to a bunch of other spells being rolled up into one: areas of solid fog, sections of grasping undergrowth (as the entangle spell), four awakened trees (provided there are four trees to animate) to act as guardians, and either: two castings of gust of wind, one instance of spike growth, or two wind walls.  I think this spell is awesome, but I do worry that it has a LOT going on considering the player has to decide what and how many defenses they want and where they want to place them, and then if the party are attacked in the night there's a lot of detail in this spell description alone to refer to, let alone the many references to other spells. Expect things to slow down at your table.
  • the 8th-level wizard spell mighty fortress creates, well, a mighty fortress. This fort is a one tough cookie to crumble, with each 10-foot by 10-foot section of wall possessing an AC of 15 and 360 hit points. Supposing an enemy force breached the outer wall they'd contend with the walls of the inner keep which have the same AC and 180 hit points (being only half as thick as the outer walls). The keep can also feed a nine-course banquet to 100 people a day, and contains a staff of one hundred unseen servants. Furthermore, the keep lasts a week (which makes sense given it may need to withstand a siege), and if you cast it ever 7 days in the same place for a year it becomes permanent. 


A casting of Mighty Fortress


Other awesome spells include some that summon outsiders but don't necessarily control them, encouraging you to pair such spells with magic circles, mimicking the sort of summoning we expect from Faustian bargains! Perfect for a fiend-pact warlock.

Appendix A: Shared Campaigns

I haven't spent a lot of time looking at this appendix as it's not relevant to me, but from what I can tell it basically reproduces the way the Adventurer's League works in case you wanted to organise something similar with a group of DMs. I'm not really sure who this is aimed at, given players interested in this could just as easily start running Adventurer's League games.

Appendix B: Character Names

This is both useful and yet not. I'm not denying the utility of random tables of NPC names organised by race and sex. But there are other similar books/PDFs etc already out there, not to mention online random generators. I'll probably use this appendix if I need a name on the fly and I'm already on D&D Beyond (where I bought Xanathar's). But most of the time, I already have access to other things doing the same job. I won't knock its inclusion, though,especially since not all DMs use their laptop at the table and it's undoubtedly easier for them than carrying another third party book or print-out.

Conclusions

All in all, my reactions to Xanathar's Guide to Everything are very positive. Given that most of the content was already available via Unearthed Arcana, albeit in unfinished forms, I went into the purchase wary. Especially because most of the early versions of the archetypes had been in forms that I didn't like, and I wasn't confident that the revisions would have changed them substantially. I've been won over. Pretty much all of the archetypes look playable now (any negative feedback I made above notwithstanding), and a lot of the rest of the content is solid. Never-before-seen content such as This is Your Life and the Common Magic Items are stand outs for me, and I consider the purchase well worth it for them alone. Everything else is just a massive helping of gravy.

Your Thoughts

Have you purchased Xanathar's Guide to Everything yet? What were your thoughts? Has this review helped you make up your mind? Let me know! 

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

5e: The Why and How of a Celestial Warlock

When the Celestial pact warlock first appeared in Unearthed Arcana, my first response was "why?".  Based on comments and discussions I've seen about this archetype both in its original form and in Xanathar's Guide to Everything, I know that it's a fairly common feeling.

It's an easy conclusion to jump to: warlocks, perhaps more than any other class, are intrinsically tied to their story. A warlock is supposed to have made a choice, probably a foolish one, to tie themselves to a powerful being with an alien and likely dangerous agenda. It's about the nature of corruption, subservience, and often the desire to escape from the pact. When you think of a Celestial creature, you don't necessarily think of it as a fearsome entity that would engender such complex feelings. Surely the goals of the Celestial are noble, and the warlock would serve it willingly?

Not at all! I've come to a new conclusion: Celestial warlocks are absolutely fine and a completely worthy addition to the game. And here's why:

Alignment Extremes of any kind are anathema to life as we know it

In the works of famed fantasy author Michael Moorcock his heroes strive, succeed, and fail against the backdrop of a cruel and uncaring universe. The higher powers of Law and Chaos each want to conquer the other, but neither side must be allowed to win. Absolute order or absolute anarchy in the cosmos are desired states for these godly entities, but either resolution would mean the extinction of mere mortals, who are creatures whose natures are somewhere in between.

Solar stock art by and © Jacob Blackmon


The D&D cosmology is perhaps not quite that cruel. If the Lawful Good gods did overthrow all that is Evil, the mortal races probably wouldn't be obliterated, unable to survive. But they would still  lose something incredibly important: choice. And choice is a key factor in what makes life worth living. In a world ordered by absolute goodness and absolute adherence to the prescribed order, a person must always act the correct and proper way. They can give themselves no allowance to be flawed. In a world where Evil is gone, the gods of Good no longer need to give a person who fails to be good allowances because of the existence of sin. Sin is meant to be eradicated. The sinner is a threat to the established world order.

That extreme is unlikely to come to pass, but it's useful to think about when considering the true nature of Celestial beings. Celestials, like other outsiders, are creatures whose alignment is baked into their souls and their very bones. Their alignment is writ large in capital letters. They know of NO other way to be.

In short, Celestials are actually as alien to mortal minds as Devils and Demons. They are also potentially just as dangerous to a free-thinking being. A Lawful Good celestial doesn't understand that sometimes a law might need to be broken, or even bent. A Chaotic Good celestial sees a servant of order as a threat to the concept of Freedom (with a capital "F") that is at the very core of their being, regardless of whether that creature also happens to be Good. Any Celestial cannot comprehend even small acts of selfishness, although Lawful and Chaotic Celestials may occasionally see the need to make a tough decision for the greater good of their ethical cause.

Just as devils and demons will war with each other because their brands of Evil are incompatible,  the forces of Lawful Good and Chaotic Good can and do clash against each other. Given the proximity of their realms in the Great Wheel, they probably fight between themselves far more often than they war with the forces of the lower planes. This is the perfect demonstration of the rigidity of a Celestial's stance. Celestial creatures will take similarly unmovable stances when faced with mortals who act in ways that are not in accordance with the Celestial's belief. Behave in the wrong way while a Celestial is there to witness, and they will undoubtedly decide you must be brought to whatever they understand to be Justice for your perceived sin.

Celestials and Gods are not the same

What is a God or Goddess without their worshippers? For better or worse, deities are locked into a mutually symbiotic relationship with mortalkind. In many settings, some or all gods may even be former mortals, and therefore dimly remember their mortal agendas and sympathies.

Gods also have thousands if not millions of worshippers, and they must constantly deal with the complex politics of the divine realms. They might even have other functions to occupy large portions of their attention and energy (such as a deity that gives of themselves to holding back an ancient, unstoppable Evil).

Gods do sometimes take an active interest in the Clerics and Paladins that worship them, but they are largely distant, content to let their mortal servants go about their business provided they adhere to the proper tenets and take part in the right causes. A Paladin or Cleric who fails their God may be punished in a direct fashion if their sin is great enough, but the likely result is simply falling from the God's favour and losing their link to the deity's divine power. The God knows that the destiny of sinners is an eternity on the lower planes, which is punishment enough.

As a mere servant, a Solar or Ki-Rin or other celestial creature has far fewer concerns. Their attention is not divided among a multitude of followers and they aren’t involved in complex divine intrigues. They have a handful (or maybe even just one) warlock agent. Like that middle manager you can't stand, they have the time and the inclination to take a very personal interest in exactly what their warlock is doing.


Celestial Unicorn stock art by and © Jacob Blackmon

Celestial Warlocks as Sinners

It's not the only option, as there's certainly a case for people to offer themselves to Celestial pacts willingly and then later regret it,  but consider the idea that most if not all Celestial warlocks are people who have sinned badly in the past. The Celestial has offered them one final chance, asking for their service and offering in return to make the former sinner's case to their God at the end of their unimpeachable service. Binding themselves to the Celestial seems to be the only way left for the sinner to earn a way back into whatever heaven they believe in.

In this case, serving the Celestial will be even harder on the warlock, because they must constantly fight against their former instincts to try to be the better person the Celestial demands them to be.

Roleplaying a Celestial Patron

Don't treat the Celestial patron like a benevolent god. They should be just as intrusive and demanding as any other patron.

The Celestial makes  uncompromising demands about not only the warlock's personal behaviour (which must be exemplary) but also about their activities: if the warlock and their comrades are doing anything but actively pursuing the Celestial's agenda of pushing their brand of Good in the world, the Celestial will want to know why and will get pretty darned angry if they don't like the explanation.

As a perfect paragon of its alignment, the Celestial is also unable to compromise and so therefore may also lack compassion,  acting with complete lack of feeling when it comes to the warlock's own wants, desires, and sometimes even their physical needs. When the Celestial patron’s eye is upon the warlock, they can’t afford to make a single misstep. And as with any other pact, the warlock never really knows when the patron's eye is upon them. They should expect to be judged harshly for every action. Such oversight could make the warlock feel just as trapped and helpless as if they were under the cloven hoof of an Archduke of Hell.

If the Celestial is Neutral Good, the patron expect acts of extreme kindness and sacrifice. The warlock must give away their last morsels of food to the starving rather than make the selfish choice to keep it, for example. They must constantly sacrifice of themselves for the greater good, and even offer those around them up for similar sacrifice, each and every time.

If the Celestial is Lawful Good, the warlock must adhere to any rightful law, even if it results in punishment for themselves or for someone they love, even if it compromises their current goals. In general the patron also expects the kind of behaviours that a Neutral Good Celestial expects, but it is sometimes permissible to make harder choices in service of the greater cause of Law.

If the Celestial is Chaotic Good, the warlock must challenge oppression in all its forms where they find it, even when that would compromise the warlock's safety or the quest. In general the patron also expects the kind of behaviours that a Neutral Good Celestial expects, but it is sometimes permissible to make harder choices in service of the greater cause of Chaos.

Consequences of Failure

The displeasure of a Celestial patron comes with consequences just as real as any other. A Celestial warlock that fails to act according to the extreme nature of the patron’s alignment will receive some manner of retribution. Celestials are not the type to torture, of course, but they can take things from the warlock or put them under the effects of some kind of curse. Often, Celestial punishments are designed to teach the warlock a lesson about the sin they were deemed to have committed.

Just as an Archfiend may ultimately feel that their warlock has outlived their usefulness, a Celestial patron has it in their power to claim the warlock's soul. They will do so without hesitation if the warlock's failures are extreme or regularly repeated. What happens to the soul then? It could be purified by the Celestial and absorbed, increasing their own power to fight the good fight. That power could instead be gifted to another more worthy agent. The soul could even be used by the Celestial's own patron (the God they ultimately serve), perhaps to create a new, untainted mortal life.

Your Thoughts

What do you think about the Celestial pact for the warlock? Leave a comment or reach out on twitter!

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

5e Fallout: Malevolent Mirelurks and Ghastly Gatorclaws

The Fifth Edition Fallout bestiary gets a new update today! In addition to that, this time round I made some changes to the Races section and I created a new Fifth Edition Fallout character sheet!

Vault Dweller Personal Record
Vault Dweller Personal Record


Awesome, right?

All the updates listed below have now been added to the Fifth Edition Fallout sourcebook. You can download it, the character sheet above, and additional resources from the Fifth Edition Fallout hub.

New Monstrous Additions to Fifth Edition Fallout

As you may know, I released the Fifth Edition Fallout sourcebook with a limited bestiary which I've been expanding over time. At release, the rules included dogs and them molerat, a bunch of raiders, and a selection of robots. Since release, I've been running twitter polls to decide which category of creatures to work on next, and adding in lesser known monsters from DLCs and such as "bonus content".

As a result of the first poll, I added feral ghouls to the game. I also opted to add a couple more raider bosses and Ghost People (from the New Vegas add-on Dead Money).

The second poll resulted in Super Mutants getting added to the game. I also chose to include Nightkin and Centaurs in the update, though not mutant hounds (I didn't rectify that this time round, but hopefully will soon). The bonus creatures that time round were Tunnelers (from the New Vegas add-on Lonesome Road).

The most recent poll was a clear win for Mirelurks, so they're the focus of this update. However, there's some other cool new stuff!

These updates bring the page count to around 90 pages! They includes:

Gatorclaws

  • Gatorclaw (CR 13)

Mirelurks

  • Softshell Mirelurk (CR 1/8)
  • Mirelurk (CR 1)
  • Mirelurk Razorclaw (CR 5)
  • Mirelurk Killclaw (CR 8)
  • Glowing Mirelurk (CR 10)
  • Nukalurk (CR 12)
  • Bloodrage Mirelurk (CR 13)
  • Mirelurk Hunter (CR 10)
  • Glowing Mirelurk Hunter (CR 13)
  • Nukalurk Hunter (CR 16)
  • Mirelurk King (CR 10)
  • Glowing Mirelurk King (CR 12)
  • Nukalurk King (CR 14, legendary)
  • Mirelurk Deep King (CR 16, legendary)
  • Catfish Mirelurk (CR 13)
  • Mirelurk Queen (CR 24, legendary)
  • Mirelurk Hatchling (CR 0)
  • Nukalurk Queen (CR 25, legendary)

Creature Templates

New templates that can be added to existing monsters to easily create new variants! Some template are derived from actual Fallout creature types (such as Albino, Glowing, and Nuklear) while others are less explicitly tied to Fallout (such as Cunning, Hulking, and Swift).
  • Albino
  • Cunning
  • Hulking
  • Glowing
  • Legendary (yes, this template is intended to help with quickly creating new Legendary creatures)
  • Nuklear
  • Resilient
  • Swift

Other Updates

  • Changes to the following Races: Human (now includes subraces: Gen-3 Synth, Vault Born, Vault Survivor, and Wastelander), Super Mutant (some adjustments to the text of racial traits, no mechanical changes).
  • Updates to the Classes/archetypes section to account for the release of Xanathar's Guide to Everything.
  • Addition of a advice sidebar on when and how to use Doomsday Devices in the game.
  • Sidebar added to the Super Mutant Suicider regarding when and how to use it in the game.
  • The Deathclaw and Alpha Deathclaw have both had some statblock adjustments to correect an error in CR calculation (the CR of each remains unchanged).
  • A smattering of minor typographical corrections elsewhere in the text.

Explore the Wastes in Style!

Fifth Edition Fallout now has its own character sheet (pictured earlier in the article)! The sheet is a single-page PDF that includes features unique to Fifth Edition Fallout such as places to track your Dehydration, Starvation, radiation exposure, and power armour. For now I focused on the important crunch stuff, since you could use another sheet, a notebook, etc. for descriptions, character bios, and other fluff stuff. Expanding it to two pages might be something I return to later if there's enough demand!

The character sheet comes in both print and form-fillable flavours. Visit the Fifth Edition Fallout hub to download a copy!

Next for Fifth Edition Fallout

I already started the poll for the next bestiary update:


As you can see (assuming you read this article within the first day of it's posting), there's still a little time to cast your own vote if you haven't already!

Your Thoughts

As usual I'd love to hear your thoughts about any aspect of Fifth Edition Fallout. Please also reach out if you catch any errors so I can fix it asap!

Monday, 6 November 2017

5e: Killer Feats for Contract Killers with Killer Smiles

The following feats are perfect for assassins and spies who want to be ready to tackle a dirty job, no matter how secure the facility or public the environs. These new tools give such characters new ways to enveigle secrets from their marks and to keep them alive in the event they become exposed.

Blade in the Dark

You are a master of up close and personal wetwork, silencing guards and targets with lethal efficiency without drawing unwanted attention. You gain the following benefits: 
  • Increase your Dexterity score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
  • You gain proficiency in Stealth. 
  • When you hit an unsuspecting or surprised creature with a finesse weapon, roll 2d6 and add it to the attack's damage. Your Blade in the Dark damage bonus stacks with a Rogue's Sneak Attack class feature. 
  • If you reduce an enemy to 0 hit points or render them unconscious while they are unaware or surprised, you muffle their mouth or otherwise prevent them from making noise. 

Concealed Weapons

You are a contract killer who has mastered the art of eliminating targets when others would find it impossible, too risky, or too public to reach them. As such, you perfect new skills that enable you to smuggle implements of death into environments as varied as ballrooms and secure facilities. You gain the following benefits:

  • Increase your Dexterity score by 1, to a maximum of 20.   
  • You are proficient with underhand weapons and always carry several of them on your person. Underhand weapons are creative killing tools that easily blend in with your outfit and can be use as both garottes and whip-like lashes. Common techniques for creating underhand weapons include: sewing razor blades into scarves, sashes, or along the edge of belts; replacing necklace strings with durable wire; and forging decorative belly chains that are in fact strong enough to choke a person without breaking.

    You can always draw an underhand weapon while you are wearing your own clothes. You can make the necessary modifications to a set of clothes that has been borrowed or stolen by spending at least an hour incorporating existing underhand weapons into the outfit and creating new ones that better suit it.

    In your hands an underhand weapon is a two-handed finesse melee weapon which deals 1d6 damage, and because you carry so many you can choose whether it deals bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage when you draw the weapon from your outfit. Wielded by someone without this feat, an underhand weapon is also considered an improvised weapon (and therefore deals only 1d4 damage), and its damage type must be predetermined. 
  • Your underhand weapons and one other small or otherwise easily hidden item are concealed so well on your person that anyone observing or searching you has difficulty finding them. The item in question can be a dagger, light hammer, sling (with up to 10 sling bullets), whip, blowgun (with up to 30 needles), or a similarly sized item that weighs no more than 5 lb.

    Your underhand weapons and the concealed item are hidden so well that they cannot be spotted using Wisdom (Perception). When you are searched, the searcher rolls their Intelligence (Investigation) check as though they had disadvantage, using the lower of the two results for the purposes of finding these items and the higher of the two results for the purposes of finding any other objects or secrets you are trying to hide. If the searcher has advance knowledge that tells them where and what they are looking for, they roll their Intelligence (Investigation) check normally.


Consummate Liar

Falsehoods pass through your lips as naturally as breath through your lungs. You gain the following benefits:
  • Increase your Charisma score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
  • When you make a Charisma (Deception) check, the minimum you can roll on the d20 is 8. If you roll less than that, treat your roll as an 8 instead. 
  • If you have already successfully lied to a creature since your last short rest, you have advantage on all further attempts to convince that creature of a lie until you fail an ability check, you tell a lie that is demonstrably false, or you take a short rest. Once you are caught in a lie, you cannot gain this benefit against a creature that knows you lied until at least 24 hours have passed.  

Devastating Allure

You possess great physical beauty and potent animal magnetism, which you use to manipulate those who are attracted to your sex. You gain the following benefits: 

  • Increase your Charisma score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
  • Any Indifferent NPC who considers you attractive is instead Friendly towards you (though not your allies).
  • You have advantage on Charisma (Deception) and Charisma (Persuasion) checks made against anyone whom is attracted to members of your sex.
  • You add +5 to the result of a Charisma (Performance) check against any member of the audience who is attracted to your sex.
  • Whenever you deal psychic damage to any target whom is attracted to members of your sex, increase the damage by 1d4.
Note that when an NPC's preference has not been predetermined, the DM may choose to do so randomly using any method of their preferencce. While an oversimplification of the demographics of sexuality, here is one possible method rolled on a d12: 
1-3: attraction to the opposite sex (heterosexual).
4-5: attraction to the male and female sexes (bisexual).
6: attraction to all genders (pansexual).
7: attraction to multiple genders, but not all (polysexual).
8: attraction to non-binary persons (skoliosexual).
9: not attracted to anyone (asexual).
10-12: attracted to the same sex (homosexual).

Knife Thrower

You have mastered throwing knives. You gain the following benefits:
  • In your hands, light thrown weapons have a range of 30/90. 
  • When you make an Attack action and all the attacks you make are with daggers, you may make one extra attack which must also be with a dagger. If you are a monk, this attack deals normal damage for a dagger rather than your Martial Arts damage. 
  • You may spend your action to aim at a target you specify. If you do so, add +5 to all attack rolls made with thrown daggers on your next turn. 

Other Feats for your Build

You'll definitely want the Skulker feat both for its stealth abilities and so you can avoid the disadvantage from operating in dim lighting conditions. Actor can help you get into private parties and other places you don't belong. Consider Mobile to more quickly maneuver through an enemy facility or flee it if things go South. Lucky is a solid choice for someone who takes so many risks! If building a spy rather than an assassin, consider Observant.