Wednesday, 28 June 2017

5e: Hacking the Game—Fallout, Part II

Fifth Edition Fallout

Since this series was completed, the reskins and rules discussed have been compiled into a single sourcebook I've called Fifth Edition Fallout, which also includes new additions conceived after the conclusion of the series, as well as a bestiary of wasteland creatures! You can find Fifth Edition Fallout, a starter adventure called A Date With the Queen, and several resources including a tailor-made character sheet over at the Fifth Edition Fallout hub page.
This is the second in a series of articles discussing how we might hack 5th edition D&D to allow us to play games set in the Fallout setting. You can find the first part here.

This time round, we were meant to be looking at classes. But we're not going to, because I realised there was something else we needed to cover first.

You see, I'd written the article on classes already and had moved on to equipment. Thinking about items made me realise there were several important features of the Fallout setting that I'd neglected to consider during my introduction to the key concepts we need to consider for this hack. As you might imagine given I realised this while thinking about equipment, these neglected features pertain to the resources available to characters—and the lack of them. So we're going to cover these ideas and build any mechanics we need to support them now while core ideas and mechanics are still at the forefront, rather than interrupt the flow of the series later when we're delving into specifics.

That said, this is perfect illustration of the fact that hacking a game (or developing one from scratch) is an organic process. Sure, I can set out an ideal order in which to write this series, but I can't make any guarantees regarding that road map. Whether it's something I suddenly realise needs to be included, an idea that comes to me be based on something we develop later that needs to be retroactively accounted for, or the realisation late in the game that something decided early doesn't work after all resulting in beginning again from scratch, complications arise. I was fortunate on this occasion to have such a realisation at a convenient time. Next time might not be so lucky.


The ideas I'm going to talk about today all have one important thing on common. They directly result from a lack of resources in the post apocalyptic wasteland. That is such a core feature of the setting it's remarkable I didn't even consider it last time, and it definitely ought to be reflected in the way the game is played. It's not an exaggeration to say that scarcity is the fulcrum of the world's very essence. Even before the nuclear bombs fell, a worldwide energy crisis is what led to the Great War and civilisation's collapse. In the wastelands those bombs created, people struggle to survive with the aid of dwindling salvage, or eke out meager existences amidst myriad horrors that would snatch those existences away without a second thought.

In a world such as this, player characters should be concerned where their next meal is coming from and whether they can afford to use precious ammunition to kill that pack of feral ghouls over the hill or whether they need to risk going in swinging. As much as we can manage without making the game a micro-managing hell, it should be about husbanding resources for survival.

Putting scarcity at the front and centre so that it affects our players sells the sort of plots we're likely to want to use: if our players experience their own hardship in the post-apocalyptic wasteland, the problems of NPCs will hit closer to home. They'll be able to empathise better with the settlers who lost everything to raiders and need some wandering hero to take their revenge and recover their possessions. Hell, they'll probably be able to empathise with the raiders too. Maybe taking what they need by force has crossed their minds once or twice too. Maybe they've acted on it.

In short, a game set in the Fallout setting should reflect the hardship of the world, and it should be a trial by fire for a character's morality and ethics. 

Theme versus Fun

While we might want to emphasise the survival elements of the setting, it's probably a mistake to enforce the extreme micro-management of a player character's inventory that might be implied. 

We want characters to be concerned with what and how often they eat, what and how often they drink, and also picking up random junk items to sell or to salvage for repairs and upgrades to their possessions. We just don't want to go into too much detail. The key is therefore going to be abstraction. Food, drink, and junk need to become resources that are easily managed. 

Fortunately for me, I've actually been working on rules for a survival horror game so this is a problem I've already dedicated some brainpower to solving. Therefore I already have some ideas on this front—The ideas below take those original concepts and attempt to rebuild them in a way that fits the 5e rules.

Food and Water

Food is abstracted into meals, drinks, and snacks. Players should either keep track of their own food and drink supplies or the group may designate a volunteer as their quartermaster.

Starvation and Deydration

A character needs at least two meals worth of sustenance and two bottles worth of water (or equivalent hydration) each in-game day. 

Every day that a character goes without one or both of their meals, they gain that many points of Starvation. Similarly, going without one or both bottles of water gains that many points of Dehydration. 

When a character has points in Starvation or Dehydration, they must make a Constitution saving throw at the beginning of the following day (usually after their next long rest). The DC is 8 + their starvation points + their dehydration points.  Failure reduces the character’s Exhaustion track by one step. This Exhaustion is permanent until the character properly feeds and hydrates themselves for at least one day (see below). Success means that the character is ignoring the effects of their hunger and/or thirst, for now.

Returning to an Adequate Diet

Every day that a character eats at least two meals, they reduce their starvation by 2. Provided they aren't also dehydrated, they also regain access to one step on their Exhaustion track. A character may eat three meals per day, if they have enough food, to reduce their starvation by 3 instead of 2. 

Returning to an Adequate Level of Hydration

Every day that a character hydrates themselves with at least two canteens of water (or equivalent), they reduce their dehydration by 2. Provided they aren't also starving, they also regain access to one step on their Exhaustion track. A survivor may drink three canteens worth of water per day, if they have enough, to reduce their dehydration by 3 instead of 2. 


Snacks are sugary or caffeinated foodstuffs and beverages. One snack of either type can be consumed to temporarily recover a step of Exhaustion. Since this recovery is from the effects of a sugar or caffeine rush it doesn’t last, and the character moves one step along the Exhaustion track again at the end of the current encounter. A character may only gain the effects of imbibing an energy snack once per encounter. 

Other than this, three edible snacks can also be consumed in place of a meal if the character doesn’t have anything healthier and more substantial available to them. Three liquid snacks can count as a single bottle worth of water.

Radioactive Food and Drink 

Whether canned or bottled goods from before the Great War, or grown or sourced in the post-nuclear wastes, almost all sources of food and drink available are irradiated. All meals and bottles are assumed to be radioactive unless the GM specifies otherwise. 

When a character consumes radioactive food or liquid on any given day, at the beginning of the next day (usually after their next long rest) they make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw. On a failed saving throw, the character gains a level of radiation poisoning. 

If a character is fortunate enough to partake of fresh food or purified drink for some but not all of their daily rations, reduce the DC by 1 per non-radioactive meal or drink consumed that day. Naturally, if all meals and drinks consumed are non-radioactive, no saving throw is required.

Skipping a meal or drink also reduces the DC by 1. Eating and drinking nothing avoids the saving throw altogether. Abstaining from irradiated food and drink can work for avoiding the risks of radiation poisoning in the short them, though it means the character may instead face the consequences of starvation and dehydration (see above).


In Fallout, especially in the early game, players might be inclined to pick up all kinds of junk items to sell at a market for as many caps as they can squeeze out of the vendor. In Fallout 4, junk has another purpose too—it can be broken down into parts to upgrade weapons and armour with modification. Spoiler alert—I intend to include modifications when I get round to equipment. Players will either be able to pay an appropriate NPC using caps, or do the job themselves if they have the raw materials, perhaps after making an appropriate skill check or checks.

So do players need to keep track of every broken watch or zippo lighter they pick up from the wasteland?

I'm thinking there's no need for that. Instead, I propose an abstracted resource called "salvage". The GM can award this to players by way of loot along with caps and items as part of an adventure. Each point of salvage represents one unspecified item or the broken down components of said item.

Salvage can affect encumbrance. A character's salvage has a weight of 0.4 lb. multiplied by the number of salvage points.

Many traders will gladly buy salvage. Typically, one salvage is worth one cap, though like any other item player characters may find that market values sometimes vary.

Finally, salvage can be expended to modify weapons and armour. To create a modification, a number of salvage equal to the modification's price in caps must be consumed.


We could also abstract ammunition in the same way (this is the approach taken in the Dungeon Master's Guide, where all guns simply use "bullets"), but I feel that ammo is one area of the game that would be poorly served by this approach.

If all weapons use the same bullets, it will be hard to ever tax the resources of our players without crippling the party's ability to use guns entirely. A rich variety of ammunition, on the other hand, is a potent tool in the GM's arsenal to carefully control the ammo supply and encourage the theme of survival.

In D&D, characters tend to stick to one or two weapons, which are their signature items. If they change it, it's just because they found a better, magical version.

This Fallout game shouldn't really be like that. It's fine if they have a favourite, but players shouldn't rely too much on any one weapon. It should sometimes be unavailable because of lack of ammunition or disrepair; characters should carry back ups, and be willing to pick up whatever weapons and ammo they can find on site in the name of survival. We want our players to feel like scavengers who survive on their wits, and making the best of the tools they have, rather than being carried through a situation because they are always optimally equipped.

When ammo is broken up into many types, we can hand out the ammunition the players really want—the caliber they need for their first choice weapons—in carefully portioned amounts. If they never get enough of it, they'll be encouraged to carry backup ranged and melee weapon to give themselves options in a pinch. If they find a weapon they wouldn't normally use, they'll be more likely to consider using it, even if only temporarily. Especially if there's more ammunition for that particular weapon lying around, which is usually the case.

Even when they do have ammo for their preferred weapon, players might carefully consider whether they really want to use it—"is this pack of mole rats worth using my precious shotgun shells, or should I switch to my pipe pistol and save the shotgun in case something worse is just around the corner?". The party as a whole may even start making such choices together, each equipping themselves with different types of weapons to their comrades so that they aren't competing for precious ammo supplies, and each taking the lead in a given situation depending on who is best equipped to handle it.

On that note, we can occasionally use ammo supplies to give each character a moment to shine. One day, Hannah might use her shotgun to fend off a mirelurk while her ammo-starved companions retreat to safety. The next, it might be Jerome's turn to protect the party from a pack of feral ghouls using his assault rifle.

For these reasons I favour specificity over abstraction for ammunition, and that'll be the approach I take when creating the equipment lists.

Next Time...

That's it for now, though as I mentioned it's still possible I'll realise something else I missed that's too important to ignore! Fingers crossed it doesn't happen. Fates willing, next time we'll be returning to the original schedule and taking a look at what classes and archetypes might work for our Fallout themed game.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

5e: Hacking the Game—Fallout, Part I

Fifth Edition Fallout

Since this series was completed, the reskins and rules discussed have been compiled into a single sourcebook I've called Fifth Edition Fallout, which also includes new additions conceived after the conclusion of the series, as well as a bestiary of wasteland creatures! You can find Fifth Edition Fallout, a starter adventure called A Date With the Queen, and several resources including a tailor-made character sheet over at the Fifth Edition Fallout hub page.

Past versions of the d20 system that powers D&D 5e have proven up to the task of powering RPGs in all kinds of genres, thanks to the Open Gaming License. 5e now has its own OGL, which means it has the same potential. All manner of games based on the System Reference Document are being released or are in the process of development, including Spilled Ale Studios' own One For All.

I thought it might be fun to write a series of articles walking through how the 5e game might be reskinned to suit a very different setting—in this case, the world of the Fallout franchise. The key word there is "reskinned", not "rebuilt". In the end, we'll definitely have to make some new stuff like monsters, weapons, and so on. We might even have to build some brand new mechanics to integrate into the core rules before the end of this. But, where possible, we want to work with the tools we have.

A quick note on balance: these are obviously not playtested ideas, and balance cannot be guaranteed (not that it is always guaranteed even in heavily playtested final products!). If something seems off to you, I encourage you to make any changes you wish—and to let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Key Features of Fallout

Here are a list of key themes and ideas from that Fallout setting that make it what it is. We we will want to incorporate these, or leave them out only after careful consideration:
  • Radiation. The world of Fallout is a nuclear wasteland. We will need to look at the effects of radiation exposure on a character.
  • Firearms, advanced armour, and other science fiction technology. For the most part, this should just involve expanding on the firearms option in the Dungeon Master's Guide, and considering what other items might be significant enough to have codified game effects.
  • Damage Types. The idea of damage types, damage resistances, and damage vulnerabilities works just as well for Fallout as it does for the Forgotten Realms, but we likely don't want to keep the same ones. Some will work, eg. acid, fire, cold, lightning, and poison. Others, like radiant or necrotic, simply don't fit. We'll likely want to include laser, plasma, and radiation damage types. Thunder can be renamed to sonic.
  • Robots. Before we can decide how we'll handle robots PCs and NPCs we'll need to see what we can borrow from constructs, and from released versions of the warforged playable race.
  • The S.P.E.C.I.A.L system. This is Fallout's version of ability scores, and also its perk system which could be equivalent to feats and class abilities. Feats are presented as an optional rule in D&D 5e, but my first instinct is that they should be a default part of this Fallout hack we're building.
  • Unique Races. Fallout has several mutated and robotic intelligent species in addition to humans. There might be two approaches here; reskinning (or altering as little as possible) existing races from the D&D game, or creating new races from scratch.
  • Classes. The setting likely requires fewer classes, and we certainly won't need the magic-using ones. My expectation here is that we might want to keep the Barbarian, Fighter, Ranger, and Rogue. Certain archetypes and even core abilities may not be wholly appropriate or may need tweaking. Possibly we might have to (or end up wanting to) create new archetypes to fill certain setting-specific roles. It is unlikely we would need to create any brand new classes.

Ability Scores

Let's start with one of the basic building blocks of the game.

In 5e, characters have six ability scores: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. In Fallout, characters are built using the "S.P.E.C.I.A.L" system: Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck.

D&D / Fallout Ability Score Equivalency

D&D Fallout

This maps almost perfectly, except for the addition of a seventh ability score, Luck. Strength, Intelligence, and Charisma are the same in both systems, no surprises there. Perception covers a character's ability not notice things and their insight—essentially, it's the same as Wisdom. Endurance is the same as Constitution, and Agility equates to Dexterity.

While it would be nice to rename the abilities to fit the setting, and even in spite of half of the abilities even having the same names, choosing to go with Fallout's nomenclature may cause more confusion than it's worth. Particularly in the case of Perception, which is also the name of a skill. For the moment, let's use the ability scores we're familiar with. At least we know they correspond to the abilities a character on Fallout is meant to have! With the notable exception of that seventh ability, Luck.

The S.P.E.C.I.A.L system is a core feature of the world of Fallout, and Luck is part of that (otherwise it would just be "S.P.E.C.I.A"). Even if we're not technically using the right ability names, it would still be nice to include a Luck ability. But can we justify Luck's existence? More importantly, can we marry its' purpose in the source game with mechanical function? If the only version of Luck we can make work has no resemblance at all to how it works in the video game, what's the point?

In Fallout 4, Luck is useful for increasing the chances of a critical hit, determining how many caps and ammunition you find, and reducing the chance of catching a disease.

Using Luck to detemine loot only works if the GM rolls randomly on treasure tables, and these rolls are rare enough they probably don't need a core ability to deal with it. Resistance to disease is already convered by Constitution/Endurance. We could use Luck's modifier to increase critical hit chances, but that would be extremely powerful, and a pretty niche thing to need an ability score for.

I do have a thought for how we can handle Luck. It does require treating the ability score slightly differently than the other six, which may not be to your taste. The option presented below won't be tied integrally to anything else, and you could simply ignore it:


Luck is a seventh ability score which can sometimes be used in place of other abilities to affect the outcome of a roll. It is not, however, a "super-ability" that can always be substituted for other abilities. Luck should only be rolled when chance can realistically have a significant impact on the outcome of a roll, and when one of the following conditions are also true:
  • The GM can't decide what ability (or abilities) make sense for what the character is attempting.
  • An ability check using one of the other six abilities was already rolled, but failed to establish a definitive outcome.
Luck can also be referred to rather than rolled as a method of breaking ties. For instance, say the Sole Survivor and a Super Mutant both roll 17 for Initiative, but the Sole Survivor has 14 Luck whereas the Super Mutant's Luck score is 10. In this case, the GM could reasonably rule that the Sole Survivor acts first in the initiative order.

Unlike other ability scores, Luck is fluid. A character's Luck bonus can be expended to gain one of several advantages. Conversely, a character with a Luck penalty grants similar advantages to their opponents.

A character can spend their Luck bonus on any of the following:
  • Roll an ability check, attack roll, or saving throw with advantage.
  • Cause an opposed creature's attack roll or saving throw to be rolled with disadvantage.
  • After rolling an attack, spend one or more Luck to cause the attack to be a critical hit on a result 2 less than 20 per Luck spent. 1 luck = critical hit on 18+, 2 luck = critical hit on 16+, and so on.
If a character has a Luck penalty, the GM can spend points from their penalty in the same manner to give NPCs or even other PCs advantage against the character, force them to roll an attack or saving throw at disadvantage, or to turn an otherwise normal hit into a critical hit.

After a Luck point is spent and its effects occur, the character's Luck ability is temporarily reduced by 2 (and their bonus is reduced by 1). After a GM spends a point of a character's Luck penalty, their Luck is instead increased by 2 (and their penalty reduced by 1). Once a character's Luck bonus becomes +0, no more Luck can be spent by either the player or the GM. The character's Luck resets to its original score after a long rest.


Fallout wouldn't be Fallout without the risk and consequences of radiation exposure.

This blog isn't the place to discuss the effect of radiation poisoning in all its gory detail. Suffice it to say that what begins with symptoms of nausea leads into headaches, fever, dizziness, weakness, and ultimately hair loss, high infection risk, poor natural healing, and other serious symptoms. More detail can be found here.

It strikes me that, as a long-term effect that becomes worse and worse, radiation exposure would be handled well as a condition track similar to Exhaustion. But, in fact, there is a lot of overlap between the mechanical effects implied by radiation poisoning and conditions already in the game. It starts with nausea and vomiting, which resembles the Poisoned condition. Most of the symptoms that follow actually match up to the effects of Exhaustion quite nicely.

This isn't a problem, and we can embrace it. 5e already has precedent for conditions that cause other conditions. So here is my suggested Radiation Sickness condition track:

Radiation Sickness

You are poisoned.
You gain a level of exhaustion.
You gain a level of exhaustion.
You gain a level of exhaustion.
You gain a level of exhaustion. Halve any hit points or temporary hit points you receive from natural healing or curative items and effects.

As you can see the cumulative effects of radiation are appropriately severe. It starts off with the poisoned condition, which is equivalent to level 1 and level 3 of exhaustion combined. At level 2 of radiation exposure, the character gains their 1st level of exhaustion too. Assuming they aren't already exhausted, there are no changes to the severity of the radiation yet because the poisoned condition already incorporates the same effects. At level 3 of radiation exposure they gain their second exhaustion level, halving their speed. At level 4 of radiation exposure there are again no changes, since the effect of level 3 exhaustion is already in play. At level 5, their 4th level in exhaustion halves their hit points, and the character suffers halved healing.

Of course, the "dead levels" in the radiation track assume that the character had no exhaustion to begin with. If they earn exhaustion from another source, the effects of gaining an exhaustion level from a radiation exposure level will obviously be more severe. It's quite possible for a character who has radiation poisoning to ultimately die from exhaustion, instead of from the radiation.

Damage Types

The world of Fallout has slightly different dangers to the world of D&D. For the most part, damage types remain the same. However, the following changes should be made:
  • There is no Force damage type.
  • There is no Necrotic damage type.
  • There is no Radiant damage type.
  • The Thunder damage type is renamed to "Sonic".
  • The Radiation damage type is added.
  • The Energy damage type is added, and represents laser and plasma-based energy weapon attacks.


The Fallout series has given us the following intelligent species that could work as player character races: humans, non-feral ghouls, super mutants, robots, and synths.

There are two ways to handle this: reskin existing races and try to make as few mechanical changes as possible, or build new races from scratch. The first would be simplest, but perhaps would have less satisfying results—particularly given half the non-human races would still use the human racial statistics. Although the goal was to reskin where possible, this is one of the areas of the game where it might pay to do the extra leg work to create something that feels unique and appropriate to the setting.

I'm going to go ahead and take both approaches, and anyone reading this with plans to actually run a Fallout game can then decide which option they prefer. Each race has its own, custom created statblock (with the exception of humans and Gen 3 synths who are indistinguishable from humans). But along with each entry I've also included a note for which existing D&D 5e race or races might work instead, what tweaks might need to be made, and in what publication the race can be found.

Human or Gen 3 Synth

Reskin Race(s): Human (Player's Handbook)

Use the variant human (Player's Handbook).


Reskin Race(s): Human (Player's Handbook) or Variant Human (Player's Handbook). The ghoul does not get a bonus skill, they are instead immune to radiation damage and the radiation sickness condition.

Ability Scores: Increase your Intelligence by 2 and your Constitution by 1.
Size: Medium
Speed: 30 ft.
Radiation Immunity: You are immune to radiation damage and radiation sickness.
Long-lived: Your greatly extended lifespan is one of the few advantages to your condition. Ghouls have generally lived for a long time as humans before they change, and some have lived since before the bombs fell. As such, you gain either a bonus skill or expertise in a skill of your choice.

Super Mutant

Reskin Race(s): Half-Orc (Player's Handbook). Change size from Medium to Large. The super mutant does not get the Menacing trait. They are instead immune to radiation damage and the radiation sickness condition.

Alternatively, use the Goliath (Elemental Evil Player's Companion). Consider flipping the Strength and Constitution/Endurance bonuses. The super mutant does not get the Natural Athlete trait. They are instead immune to radiation damage and the radiation sickness condition.

Ability Scores: Increase your Strength by 1 and Constitution by 2.
Size: Large
Speed: 30 ft.
FEV Mutation: You are immune to radiation damage, radiation sickness, and disease. You do not age physically.
Relentless Endurance: When you are reduced to 0 hit points but not killed outright, you can drop to 1 hit point instead. You can't use this feature again until you finish a long rest.


In addition to the other traits of a Super Mutant, Nightkin have the following traits:
Stealth Boy: Once per short rest as an action, you can turn invisible. The invisibility lasts for up to to a minute, until you take a hostile action, or until you end it by choice.
Eroded Sanity: Use of Stealth Boys leaves night kins with mental health problems, which usually manifests as paranoia (see Long-term Madness, Dungeon Master's Guide pg. 260). With GM approval, you can instead suffer from a different long-term madness.

Roll a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw at the beginning of every short rest. If you succeed, you suppress the effects of your madness until the next short or long rest. If you fail, you may choose to spend the entire short rest suppressing your madness and automatically succeed despite your roll. If you do, you gain none of the usual advantage of the short rest. You are always considered to have automatically succeeded at suppressing your madness after an uninterrupted long rest, and you gain all the usual advantages of a long rest too.


Reskin Race(s): Warforged (Unearthed Arcana: Eberron). Consider switching the Strength bonus for an Intelligence bonus, depending on robot model. The robot should probably be immune to poison damage, the poison condition, radiation damage, and radiation sickness. For all of this, trade the +1 to AC normally gained by the Warforged, as well as its +1 ability score bonus. I'd suggest other changes as well, such as not being able to heal normally, but this is already becoming a complete overhaul. In point of fact, this is the one case where I would really recommend using the custom race over any reskin.

Ability Scores: Increase your Intelligence by 2.
Speed: 30 ft.
Machine: You are immune to poison damage, radiation damage, the poison condition, radiation sickness, and disease. You do not need to eat or breathe.

You do not sleep, but enter an inactive state for at least 4 hours every day. You do not dream in this state; you are fully aware of your surroundings and notice approaching enemies and other events as normal.

You cannot use stimpaks and other health recovery items, and instead only recover hit points through the use of robot repair kits. You cannot gain temporary hit points except through your own class abilities and feats. You recover hit points normally during down time thanks to your self-diagnostic functions. Stabilising you requires an Engineering ability check rather than a First aid ability check.


In addition to the other traits of a Robot, an Eyebot has the following traits:
Ability Scores: Increase your Dexterity by 1.
Size: Small
Hover: Your movement speed is replaced by a fly speed, though you cannot ascend higher than thirty feet above ground level.
Integrated Weapons: You possess an integrated laser that deals 1d4 points of energy damage and has a range of sixty feet.

Mister Handy

In addition to the other traits of a Robot, a Mister Handy has the following traits:
Ability Scores: Increase your Wisdom by 1.
Size: Medium
Career in Science: You have been programmed to excel at a specific task. Choose one Intelligence-based skill with which you are proficient. You gain expertise in that skill, doubling your proficiency bonus on related skill checks.
Integrated Weapons: You possess a buzzsaw and a blowtorch on two of your three appendages. Your unarmed attacks deal 1d4 points of slashing or fire damage (your choice at the time of the attack).


In addition to the other traits of a Robot, a Protectron has the following traits:
Ability Scores: Increase your Wisdom by 1.
Size: Medium
Integrated Weapons: You possess integrated arm lasers in both of your arms that deal 1d4 points of energy damage and have a range of sixy feet.

Prototype Gen 2 Synth

In addition to the other traits of a Robot, a Prototype Gen 2 Synth has the following traits:
Ability Scores: Increase your Charisma by 1.
Size: Medium
Hacker: You gain proficiency in the Hacking skill.
Run Simulations: You are adept at seeing patterns. You have advantage when attempting to predict an outcome with an Intelligence-based ability check.

Next Time

In the next article of this series, we'll take a look at 5e's classes and any changes to them we might need to consider.

Further Reading

You can find links to further articles in this series here!

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

5e: Firearms

Today I present an expansion to the arsenal of weaponry available to a 5e character, with my take on firearms. Firearms in fantasy are always divisive. Just like marmite, people either seem to love it or hate it. I for one am a fan. Lantan, the source of firearms and other more advanced technologies in the Forgotten Realms, is one of my favourite places in that world.

There have been a lot of takes on 5th Edition firearms rules already, from the examples in the Dungeon Master's Guide to various incarnations over on

The firearms in the DMG are serviceable but don't quite do it for me. The reason: renaissance firearms (those that I'm concerned with) don't feel special enough: a slight damage bump over bows and crossbows is fairly dull, and arguably not enough of a boost to make the cost in reduced range worthwhile.

Meanwhile, the takes on firearms I've seen on DMs Guild all seem to be conversions from Pathfinder, or built along similar lines. I don't like these rules for one simple reason: misfires. Sure, misfires might be historically accurate, but are they fun? Do they tempt people to use the weapon? I love firearms in fantasy, but I'd never bother making a gunslinger in a Pathfinder campaign. I'll stick to the weapons that'll let my character shine consistently, thanks!

So I'm left with a couple of thoughts to inform my design: one, I want firearms to stand out from other weapons in some way. And two, what makes the weapons special should be a positive, not a negative.

The solution I went for in the end can actually be found in the DMG, under the modern firearms. These weapons deal two dice of damage, rather than one. This ticks both boxes, since very few weapons in the game deal two dice worth of damage instead of one, and those that do are melee weapons. Thus, a pistol can deal 2d4 damage which is not just a slightly higher maximum and average damage than a 1d6 hand crossbow, but also a slightly higher minimum damage. Similarly, the musket's 2d6 does a slightly better job of making up for the difference between it and a longbow or crossbow.

Although I did say above that I'm not a fan of misfires, I did make an exception for the repeating musket listed below. This weapon is intended to represent a prototype making occasional faults a suitable side effect of use, and its advantages remain clear even with a potential downside.

Not content with relatively minor tweaks to two firearms, I also wrote adjustments to explosives, came up with an expanded list of fantastic firearms with various special properties, and designed a few modifications that might be applied to a characters' ranged weapon. Since I was on a roll, I created some fantastic siege weapons for good measure.

One quick note before you dig in: these were written with the Forgotten Realms in mind. Substitute references "smoke powder" for "black powder" in other settings.

Firearms Proficiency

If firearms are common in your world, treat them as though they require martial weapon proficiency.

If firearms are very rare, then firearms are only martial weapons to characters who have had the opportunity to learn how to use them; a character can either select individual firearms using the Weapon Master feat, or select the Renaissance (Wo)man feat presented in the sidebar of this article to become proficient with all firearms. This does normally prevent a non-variant human from becoming proficient with firearms until fourth level. You might choose to allow members of other races to gain proficiency with a single type of firearm at 1st level in one of the following ways, at your discretion:
  • The character can trade proficiency with all racial weapons for proficiency with a single firearm.
  • The character can trade one of their skill proficiencies for proficiency with a single firearm.


Weapon / Item
50 gp
2d4 piercing
3 lb.
ammunition (range 30/90 ft.), loading
500 gp
2d6 piercing
10 lb.
ammunition (range 40/120 ft.), heavy, loading, two-handed
Repeating Musket
2000 gp
2d6 piercing
15 lb.
ammunition (range 40/120 ft.), heavy, two-handed, special
Lantanna Longrifle
1000 gp
2d6 piercing
12 lb.
ammunition (range 60/180 ft.), heavy, loading, two-handed
Light Cannon
1000 gp
2d10 piercing
20 lb.
ammunition (range 40/120 ft.), heavy,  two-handed, special
Dwarven Dragonsfire Rod
1500 gp
18 lb.
ammunition (range 30 ft.), heavy, special
Mana Rifle
1d10 force
7 lb.
heavy, range 180 ft., two-handed, special
Bullets (10)
3 gp
2 lb.
Light Cannon Balls (4)
5 gp
2 lb.
Dragonfire Cask
400 gp
12 lb.
Smoke Powder Horn
35 gp
2 lb.
Smoke Powder Keg
250 gp
20 lb.
50 gp
1 lb.
Smoke Bomb
30 gp
2 lb.
Axe Blade
8 gp
1d8 slashing
modified weapon ×1.5*
5 gp
1d6 piercing
+1 lb.
50 gp
+1 lb.
Double Barrel
base weapon ×1.5**
Spyglass Attachment
1200 gp
+1 lb.
*Multiply the weapon's weight by 1.5 after applying any weight adjustments from other modifications.
**Multiply the base weapon's cost and weight by 1.5 before applying any adjustments from other modifications.

Special Weapon Properties

Repeating Musket: The repeating musket is a lantanna prototype weapon which can be loaded with multiple bullets at once, making reloading between each shot unnecessary. Six bullets are fed into a revolving cylinder, which rotates them into position in the musket’s barrel automatically as the weapon is fired. While there is still ammunition in the cylinder, the repeating musket doesn’t have the loading property.

Once the weapon is empty of pre-loaded bullets, the wielder can continue to use it as a regular musket with the loading property until they can spare the time to reload all six chambers.

The weapon’s mechanisms are temperamental, and prone to jamming. On a natural 1 on an attack roll, the weapon becomes jammed.

A repeating musket’s wielder can either reload the weapon’s six chambers or clear a jam at the expense of their entire turn and their reaction for the round.

Light Cannon: The so-called "light cannon" is a bulky weapon that does indeed resemble nothing so much as a smaller version of a cannon set upon a long wooden stock, like a musket. It fires cast iron balls that are significantly larger than the ammunition of a musket.

The light cannon is a handheld weapon of unprecedented destructive power, but requires extraordinary physical strength to use without harm to the wielder. Due to the weapon’s weight and the need to brace, a light cannon must be fired from the waist or braced. To wield a light cannon safely, the bearer must therefore have a Strength score of at least 18 or be a Large or larger creature. Anyone else attempting to fire a light cannon suffers bludgeoning damage equal to that of the weapon, is pushed back 10 feet, and is knocked prone.

A light cannon deals double damage to objects, but not structures.

It takes one action to load a light cannon, one bonus action to aim it, and one action to fire it.

Dwarven Dragonsfire Rod: The dragonsfire rod is a metal tube attached by a hose to a pressurised cask of specially formulated alchemist’s fire the dwarves call dragonsfire. The cask either sits in a fixed position from which the wielder of the dragonsfire rod can move no further than 10 feet, or else the cask is strapped to the wielder’s back using a special rig which is included in the price of the weapon. A curved crank handle is fitted to cask. If the cask is on the ground the crank is positioned near the top. When a cask is worn on a person's back it is rotated 180 degrees so that the handle is at the bottom, within easy reach of the wielder's hand.

To prime the dragonsfire rod, the crank handle needs to be pulled 30 degrees away from the wielder’s body, which can be accomplished as an object interaction.

Once the weapon is primed the liquid contents flow through the hose into the rod, after which the wielder may spend an action to pull the trigger. The rod sprays dragonsfire in a 30 foot cone. Each creature in the area must make a DC 12 Dexterity saving throw, taking 2d6 fire damage on a failed save, or half as much if successful. A creature that fails its save also takes a further 1d4 fire damage at the start of each of its turns. The creature can end this ongoing damage by using its action to make a DC 10 Dexterity check to extinguish the flames.

It takes one action to decouple a depleted cask and one action to connect a new one, which must be adjacent. However, removing the depleted cask from one's back and replacing it with another is a more involved process of buckling and unbuckling and is equivalent to donning and doffing light armor.

It is common practice for dwarven dragonsfire teams to operate in teams of two, one to wield the weapon and the other to help defend them and assist in reloading. These teams typically establish stationary positions where they have access to stores of dragonsfire casks. While the dwarves take every possible precaution to reduce the chances of these stored casks catching fire from enemy attacks, dragonsfire bunkers are still notoriously dangerous assignments.

Mana RifleThese weapons are the creations of advanced empires now long since fallen, and might occasionally be discovered within ancient ruins. They are typically mistaken for magical rods, and in truth there is very little distinction between them. A mana rifle has 30 charges, which recharge at dawn. At the expense of a charge the mana rifle fires a beam of force energy, not unlike an eldritch blast.

Variants exist that deal other types of damage, or possess properties such as the ability to repel the target if an additional charge is depleted.

Special Ammunition Properties

Dragonsfire Cask: A cask of the incendiary alchemical substance known as dragonsfire contains enough fluid for four attacks with a dwarven dragonsfire rod.

Setting fire to a cask of dragonsfire results in an explosion. All creatures within 10 feet of the cask must make a DC 12 Dexterity saving throw, taking 2d6 fire damage on a failed save or half as much if successful. A creature that fails its save also takes a further 1d4 fire damage at the start of each of its turns. The creature can end this ongoing damage by using its action to make a DC 10 Dexterity check to extinguish the flames.

Smoke Powder Horn: Smoke powder is an explosive substance, that can be used to propel a bullet. A powder horn is a portable container, traditionally made from an animal's horn, that contains enough smoke powder to fire ten bullets.

Setting fire to a powder horn results in an explosion. All creatures within 10 feet of the powder horn must make a DC 12 Dexterity saving throw, taking 2d6 fire damage on a failed save, or half as much if successful.

Setting fire to an ounce of gunpowder results in a flare of light for one round, shedding bright light in a 3-foot radius and dim light for an additional 30 feet.

Smoke Powder Keg: When not portioned into portable powder horns, smoke powder is stored in large, heavy kegs. A powder keg carries enough smoke powder for firing eighty bullets.

Setting fire to a powder horn results in an explosion. All creatures within 10 feet of the powder horn must make a DC 12 Dexterity saving throw, taking 8d6 fire damage on a failed save, or half as much if successful.

Special Explosive Properties

Bomb:  A bomb can be lit as an action and thrown into a space within 60 feet. All creatures within 10 feet of the target space must make a DC 12 Dexterity saving throw, taking 3d6 damage on a failed save, and half as much if successful.

Smoke Bomb: A smoke bomb is filled with an alchemical substance that generates large quantities of smoke when the casing breaks. It can be lit as an action and thrown into a space within 60 feet. A 20 foot radius area with the target space as its center becomes lightly obscured. One round after, the area becomes heavily obscured. A moderate wind (at least 10 miles per hour) disperses the smoke in 4 rounds or a strong wind (20 or more miles per hour) disperses it in 1 round. Otherwise, the smoke disperses after 10 rounds.

Setting fire to a powder horn results in an explosion. All creatures within 10 feet of the powder horn must make a DC 12 Dexterity saving throw, taking 3d6 fire damage on a failed save, or half as much if successful.

Special Modification Properties

Axe Blade:  An axe blade is a modification that can be added to any two-handed firearm that allows it to be wielded as a Strength-baded slashing melee weapon equivalent to a battleaxe. Unlike a bayonet, which is designed to spear the enemy's flesh and be pulled out, the heavy swings of an axe blade can do a great deal more damage to a gun which isn't designed for such impacts. Therefore, this modification includes additional structural support to the rest of the weapon and its other modifications. After applying all other modifications, multiply the combined weight of the base weapon and its other modifications by one and a half.

Axe blades, bayonets, and bipods cannot be applied to the same weapon.

BayonetA bayonet is a modification that can be added to any two-handed firearm that allows it to be wielded as a piercing melee weapon equivalent to a spear.

Bayonets, axe blades, and bipods cannot be applied to the same weapon.

Bipod: A bipod is a modification that can be added to any two-handed firearm or crossbow that allows it to be braced against a flat, firm surface for additional accuracy.

Bracing a weapon requires a bonus action. Additionally, the wielder must be adjacent to a suitable piece of half or three-quarters cover on which the weapon can be propped, or the wielder must be lying prone on solid ground.

While braced, the short range of the weapon is doubled.

Double Barrel: A double barrel is a modification that can be added to any two-handed firearm that does not already ignore the loading property (such as a repeating musket) and uses bullets or cannon balls. This modification can be applied at the time of the weapon's creation only.

A double barreled weapon can be fired twice before its wielder needs to reload, ignoring the loading property or special loading rules of the weapon. After the second shot, it becomes a normal weapon of its type. Ammunition can be loaded one at a time. Alternatively, the wielder can reload both barrels which requires an action or double the reloading time of the base weapon, whichever is longer.

A double barrel adds considerable weight to a weapon. Before other modifications are applied, increase the weight of the base weapon by one half.

The cost of a double barrel weapon is calculated in the same fashion: increase the cost of the base weapon by one half before applying the costs of any additional modifications.

Spyglass Attachment: A spyglass attachment is a modification that can be added to any two-handed firearm or crossbow that makes attacks against a single target, with the exception of a light cannon. A spyglass allows the weapon to be fired with greater accuracy. The weapon has its short range doubled, and it deals an additional die of damage whenever the wielder scores a critical hit.

Siege Weapons

Mana Cannon

Armor Class: 20
Hit Points: 100
Damage Resistances: bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical weapons
Damage Immunities: poison, psychic

A mana cannon is an ancient magical weapon occasionally discovered in the ruins of fallen magical empires. Typically a mana cannon fires a destructive beam of force, though variants that fire other types of magical energy have been known.

A mana cannon is generally made of a magically enhanced metal alloy and set in a sturdy frame of like material, but examples of other materials including stone have been discovered; the advanced peoples that created these weapons were skilled at magical maipulation to grant base materials unusual properties, and often took pride in their ability to defy natural laws.

It takes one action to aim the mana cannon and one action to fire it.

Mana Cannon Beam. Ranged Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, range 900/3,600 ft., one target. Hit: 44 (8d10) force damage.

Heavy Mana Cannon

Armor Class: 20
Hit Points: 150
Damage Resistances: bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical weapons
Damage Immunities: poison, psychic

Heavy mana cannons, like the smaller variety, are the highly destructive remnants of shattered empires.

A heavy mana cannon fires a beam with unfathomable force, but takes a short time to recharge between shots.

It takes one action to aim the mana cannon and one action to fire it. Once fired, the heavy mana cannon must recharge for two full rounds before it can be fired again.

Heavy Mana Cannon Beam. All creatures in a 10 ft. by 10 ft. area within 4,800 feet must make a DC 16 Dexterity saving throw, taking 88 (16d10) force damage on a failed saving throw. If the targets are more than 1,200 feet from the heavy mana cannon (its short range), they have advantage on their saving throws.

Thunder Cannon

Armor Class: 18
Hit Points: 75
Damage Immunities: poison, psychic

A thunder cannon is a Lantanna invention that has six rotary chambers. In quick succession each fires a cannon ball that is smaller than that of a regular cannon, but the cumulative impact of six balls gives the weapon far greater destructive force. The weapon's name is derived from the thunderous boom of its successive shots.

It takes one action to aim the thunder cannon and one action to fire it. Reloading the thunder cannon takes a full round in which the character can take no actions, movements, or reactions.

Thunder Cannon. Ranged Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, range 600/2,400 ft., one target. Hit: 54 (12d8) bludgeoning damage, 46 (10d8) of which either ignores resistance to nonmagical bludgeoning damage possessed by the target, or treats a target structure or object as vulnerable.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

5e: Monstrous Supplement — Ogres

This week, I'm presenting a number of new ogre statblocks for 5e D&D. The statblocks in the embedded PDF should be used in conjunction with baseline ogres from the SRD/Monster Manual to create a varied tribe. The ogres included will allow you to use ogres as enemies for higher level parties, and run ogre encounters where the monsters have varied and interesting strategies open to them above and beyond just hitting the nearest available player character.

The embedded PDF includes:

The Ogre Brute

An Ogre Brute is a freakishly tough representative of their species, far bulkier than most other ogres and covered in thick layers of muscle and fat which afford them some level of protection. Ogre tribes lucky enough to count one or more brutes among their number put them in the vanguard, where they can do the most damage.

The Ogre Champion

An Ogre Champion is one of the strongest and brightest of their race, but also one of the fiercest fighters. They are the equivalent to an officer, leading ogre raiding parties and rallying their tribe in times of defense. Because of their position within the tribe a champion usually has a few trophies, such as a steel weapon. Champions always wade into melee, where they rage like barbarians. If they find themselves cheated of their ability to continue raging, a champion with a cooler head can fight smart (for an ogre), making them a dangerous foe even with their fury quelled.

The Ogre Chieftain

The strongest ogre in a tribe is their chieftain. This individual is likely a former champion, and typically older than the other warriors while not yet old enough for infirmity. Their experience and relative wisdom serve them well in guiding the tribe and in defeating challenges from those that would take their place. The chieftain is measured by their strength, and in some respects their strength becomes the strength of their tribe. A strong showing in battle inspires greater efforts from the chieftain's followers. It also helps guarantee the chieftain's survival—there are those among their tribe just waiting for a sign of weakness, and this knowledge encourages a chieftain to push past physical limitations.

The Ogre Shieldbearer

A shieldbearer wields a large, primitively constructed wooden shield, or a stolen item such as a door which can serve the same purpose. They use their shield to protect themselves and other ogre warriors around them. Unsurprisingly, they are often found in the company of Champions and Chieftains.

The Ogre Slinger

Although weapons that require finesse and accuracy are hardly an ogre's strong point, these ogres defy expectation by wielding slings. The slings created by ogres are so large that they can throw hefty rocks, and the ogre's physical might is enough that those rocks often explode on impact, sending splinters of stone scything into the flesh of secondary targets.

The Ogre Parent

The ogre parent represents an ogre father or mother, or a member of the tribe who stands guard over the tribe's young in the event of an enemy attack. They fight all the harder in light of this serious duty, and throw themselves into harm's way to protect the future hopes of their tribe.

The Ogre Youth

The ogre youth is no longer a child but not old enough to be an adult. They are still learning from an ogre parent what it means to be a member of the tribe. An ogre youth can benefit from following a parent's guidance, but like children of any race they are known for rebellious streaks.