Wednesday, 27 September 2017

5e: NPC, Signifier Kyuuban

Presenting the first in a planned series of (hopefully) interesting NPCs for you to insert into your games!
Signifier Kyuuban

Art by and © Brett Neufeld
Race
Half-Orc

Path
Arcanic Monk

Alignment
Lawful Neutral

Gender
Male

Sexuality
Heterosexual (celibate)

Age
32
Height
5'9"

Build
Athletic, Powerful

Skin
Olive Green

Eyes
Brown

Hair
Brunette (shaven)

Feature(s)
Mystic tattoos

Personality
Intellectual, calm and slow to anger, appreciates humour and whimsy.

Appearance
A muscular half-orc man who dresses in the simple garb of a monk. He is tattooed from head to foot with mystic symbols which act as his spellbook, and glow with a golden light when he casts magic spells.

Background
Signifier Kyuuban was given the name "Bertal Biddle" at birth. He was the son of a half-orc caravan guard and a human seamstress who lived in Waterdeep's poor South Ward. Bertal's mother died during an outbreak of featherlung when he was young, and his father began taking him along with the caravans which employed him. Bertal's life took another tragic turn when the caravan was attacked by dekanter goblins as it passed through the graypeak mountains. His father set him aside a horse, and bid him ride for his life.

Two days later, Bertal was discovered by monks from the Monastic Order of the Woven Road, a group who worshipped Mystra and combined meditative and martial arts practices with a deep study of arcanic lore. The monks took him in, and investigated what had happened to his caravan. When it was discovered that there were no other survivors, the monks decided to let Bertal live among them as an initiate.

In the intervening decades, Bertal embraced his studies and became one of the most promising of the order's initiates, finally earning the title Signifier Kyuuban, indicating his rank as a signifier and his seniority as the ninth of that circle.

Signifier Kyuuban's responsibility to the Order is to travel far and wide, seeking out promising recruits for the continued survival of the monastery. He searches for youths whose lot in life is suffering, and offers them the same opportunity he was once given.
Proficiencies and Talents
  • Acrobatics, Arcana, Athletics, Insight, Religion
  • Excellent whistler
Significant Possessions




STR
12
+1
DEX
14
+2
CON
13
+1
INT
16
+3
WIS
15
+2
CHA
10
+0









Tuesday, 26 September 2017

5e: Shipwreck Golem

I recently painted the first of my many, many Reaper Bones 3 miniatures. Which was probably a bit daft considering most of the minis I got from Bones 1 are still unpainted.

The first I decided to paint was a surprise favourite. I added the Coral and Shipwreck Golem to my orders because they looked kind of cool, but I wasn't at all prepared for how awesome the Shipwreck Golem in particular really looks when you have it in your hands. Guys, this is a really great mini. Not only does it look utterly badass, it also has a lot of incredible fine details such as an octopus and starfish hanging on the coral and limpets clinging to the broken hull of the ship. The skeleton strapped to the ship's wheel, the mermaid figurehead, exotic tiki statue, bottles, and random treasures that help make up the golem's body are all great touches too. I really can't singe the praises of this miniature enough.

All in all, it's a bit of a shame that I was the one who painted it, since my talent is passable at best. That said, I ended up being pretty pleased with the results.

Shipwreck Golem and Grubblin  


Of course with the mini painted, I was itching for an excuse to use it! To make that happen, I needed a statblock. Here's a few things I was thinking about when making this monster:

  • The CR needed to be appropriate for my CR 12 party, or close enough that I wouldn't have to wait too long!
  • The skeleton on the wheel reminded me that shipwrecks are intimately connected with death. I thought it would be interesting to say that the animating force for a shipwreck golem is the unquiet spirits of the ship's deceased crew. Therefore, while the golem is not technically an undead creature, spellcasters who make a shipwreck golem are often necromancers, or at least not squeamish about borrowing the power of the dead. This feature factored into the golem's mental ability scores and my decision to give it proficiency in Wisdom saves. 
  • Given the size of the miniature and the fact it is a ship (albeit a wrecked one), I thought it would be cool if one of a shipwreck golem's features was the ability to safely transport one or more people under the sea. This led to the decision that the golem is attuned to an amulet, like a shield guardian, and the owner of the amulet can control the golem's movements and enter a magically watertight chamber in its interior. 
  • Golems are generally vulnerable to kiting. Even though the shipwreck golem miniature does have two cannons (one large and one small), these aren't its primary attack modes (the larger cannon is limited with a recharge, and it can't multiattack with either one). Kiting is still a fairly viable strategy—and especially a problem for me if my PCs encounter the golem in its typical underwater environment. My party would be able to use their cloaks of the manta ray (which grant an obscene swim speed of 60 ft., so take a lesson from me and don't ever give your party the recipe for this item if you want to run any more water-based adventures). Accordingly I thought about ways to limit the movement of nearby PCs and keep them where the golem can threaten them.

Whether or not you have the perfect miniature, I hope you all like the monster presented below and get a chance to use it in your campaigns!

As a special bonus, stats for Grubblin the goblin pirate (also pictured) are included. In my home campaign, Grubblin acquired the Shipwreck Golem's control amulet under unknown circumstances (he claims he slew a Merrow Priestess for it) and now wanders the bottom of the ocean inside it, in search of treasures.

Shipwreck Golem
Huge construct, unaligned

Armor Class

17 (natural armor)

Hit Points

199 (19d12 + 95)

Speed

40 ft., swim 40 ft.
STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
24 (+7) 15 (+2) 20 (+5) 7 (-2) 10 (+0) 3 (-4)

Saving Throws

Wis +4

Damage Immunities

poison; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks that aren't made with an adamantine or dreamcoral weapon.

Condition Immunities

charmed, exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned

Senses

darkvision 120 ft.; passive Perception 10

Languages

Understands commands given in any language but can't speak

Challenge

12 (8,400 XP)

Bound.

The shipwreck golem is magically bound to an amulet, which must be attuned. As long as the golem and its amulet are on the same plane of existence, the amulet's wearer can telepathically call the golem to travel to it, and the golem knows the distance and direction to the amulet.

Immutable Form.

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

Magic Resistance.

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

Magic Weapons.

The golem's weapon attacks are magical.

Submersible.

The wearer of the shipwreck golem's amulet can enter the interior of the golem as an action, as long as they are at least one size smaller than the golem. If the wearer is Medium or smaller, they can also take up to three willing creatures into the golem's interior with them. The shipwreck golem's interior is magically watertight, enabling underwater travel.

Tidal Anchor.

Waters within 60 feet of the shipwreck golem rage with powerful currents, halving the speed and swim speed of all creatures other than the golem itself while they within the affected area and they are even partially submerged in water.
Actions

Multiattack.

The shipwreck golem makes two attacks with its anchor pick and one with its falconet.

Anchor Pick.

Melee Weapon Attack: +11 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 20 (2d12 +7) piercing damage.

Falconet.

Ranged Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, range 300/1,200 ft, one target. Hit: 24 (3d10 +7) bludgeoning damage, and the target must make a DC 19 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone or pushed 10 feet (golem's choice).

Cannon (Recharge 5-6).

+6 to hit, range 600/2,400 ft, one target. Hit: 51 (8d10 +7) bludgeoning damage, and the target must make a DC 19 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone or pushed 10 feet (golem's choice).

Alternatively, the shipwreck golem targets a 5-foot wide and 60-foot long line which is cut short if the cannonball hits a Huge or Gargantuan creature before reaching the end of its trajectory. All creatures within the affected area must make a DC 19 Dexterity saving throw, taking 22 (4d10) bludgeoning damage and falling prone on a failed save or taking half as much damage if successful.


Grubblin, Goblin Pirate
Small humanoid (goblin), neutral evil

Armor Class

15 (leather armor)

Hit Points

108 (24d6 + 24)

Speed

40 ft., swim 40 ft.
STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
11 (+0) 19 (+4) 13 (+1) 12 (+1) 11 (+0) 15 (+2)

Saving Throws

Con +4, Wis +3

Skills

Acrobatics +10, Deception +8, Perception +6, Persuasion +5, Stealth +10

Senses

darkvision 60 ft.; passive Perception +3

Languages

Common, Goblin

Challenge

5 (1,800 XP)

Audacious Attacks

Grubblin has advantage on attack rolls against any target when there are no hostile creatures other than the target adjacent to him.

When Grubblin is adjacent to two or more hostile creatures, he can make an additional attack when he uses his Multiattack action as long as he doesn't target the same creature with all four attacks.

Nimble Escape.

Grubblin can take the Disengage or Hide action as a bonus action on each of his turns.

Doing it with Style.

Grubblin adds his Charisma bonus to his initiative and damage rolls (included in his attacks).
Actions

Multiattack.

Grubblin makes three attacks with his cutlass.

Cutlass.

Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 10 (1d8 +6) slashing damage.

Hand Crossbow.

Ranged Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, range 30/120 ft, one target. Hit: 9 (1d6 +6) piercing damage.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

An Isometric Map #3: Path to the Sunken Temple

Here's a map created for my home game! You are free to use the map below for your private campaigns, but not for any other purpose.

Path to the Sunken Temple © RDD Wilkin / Spilled Ale Studios. Personal use permitted. Do not redistribute.

Monday, 18 September 2017

5e: Houserules for Ability Scores, Hit Points, and Initiative

This week's blog post presents three house rules you can use in your games: Group Ability Generation, Rule of 4s Hit Points, and Oscillating Initiative. The article starts with a preface explaining the conceptual space that Group Generation and Rule of 4s fill. Oscillating Initiative is a solution for a different although not entirely unrelated issue (the common thread is how random it is).

Preface to Group Ability Generation and Rule of 4s Hit Points


Why I Believe Random Character Generation is Bad


I'm a big believer in removing the random elements from character creation and leveling up. I'm fine with the chaos of dice rolling in the game itself, for without the ebb and flow of fate's tide the narrative would be a stagnant sea indeed. When it comes to characters, though, the idea that the default is that their strengths and weaknesses should be determined at random is baffling to me. The primary reason for my opinion is one of game balance—simply put, rolling all these characteristics makes the idea of game balance pretty much laughable.

Rolling Dice

Now, the idea of game balance in a roleplaying game is a bit of an illusion to begin with. We're talking about a game with hundreds of system options alone, in which its players have complete freedom of choice. Among other things that means an almost limitless ability to find or stumble into ways to exploit or bend the rules that do exist, or discover holes the rules don't cover ultimately resulting in a houserule. With all these features in play, unforeseen reactions are a simple fact, and it's probably foolish to think you can build a system which is 100% fair 100% of the time. But, you can strive to get close. Building a game where players feel that their characters are equally valid and have as much to bring to the party is a noble goal in the pursuit of mutual fun. It's something that D&D obviously attempts given its rigid class- and level-based system. Which is where things get confusing for me. If balance matters, and is baked into the game at all levels, why is all of that then thrown away on a bunch of randomised rolls before the game even begins?

I'm talking, of course, about ability scores and hit points. Ability scores are the worst offender by far. When you roll it's theoretically possible to have arrays ranging from six 3s to six 18s. It's an extreme and unlikely disparity, but it illustrates the point. The modifiers for those six abilities have a knock-on effect on the usefulness of every other meaningful statistics or character ability. and have every other game statistics of the PCs be improved or debuffed, including hit points, which are then randomised as well! For example, a run of terrible rolls in abiltiy score generated followed by hit points rolls after first level are all that separates a 5th level Barbarian with 21 hit points and a 5th level Barbarian with 52 hit points.

Why You Don't Have to Listen to Me if You Don't Want to

But look, this is an old and well-hashed debate. Chances are, you've picked which side of it you come down on already. The game already has solutions for both sides—those who prefer not to roll can use Point Buy for ability scores and take average hit points when PCs level. I'd personally prefer these to be the defaults rather than what's considered optional, but it is what it is.

Why These Houserules Exist

The reality is, many groups include a mix of players from both camps. Being a good DM can often be about finding the right compromise to satisfy as many players as possible, even you're one of the ones who has to concede something. Sure, you run the game, but it's not yours exclusively. It wouldn't exist without the group. The following houserules, "Group Ability Generation" and "Rule of 4 Hit Points", both aim to find a solution that is at least mostly fair, with a bit of room for variation. They should satisfy both kinds of player.

Group Ability Generation

I've already made it clear that I don't like rolling because it leads to disparity between PCs, which is something I personally feel undermines any concept of balance in the game.

But what if there were a way to roll for ability scores and yet for it to be completely, 100% fair? That I'd be open to.

Adventurers at Rest (scene comprising stock art by and © Brett Neufeld)

Group Ability Generation works as follows:
  • All players roll 4d6, discard the lowest result, and add the remaining three numbers together (or substitute your group's preferred method of rolling an ability score). Each player should make a note of the total result.
  • In the event a generated ability score is less than 6, the player should ignore the total of the dice and write down 6.
  • The above is repeated six times, until all players have six ability scores between 6 and 18. These six scores are collectively known as ability arrays.
  • As a group, players compare the generated ability arrays and decide among themselves which of the arrays that all players will use.
  • Once the array is decided, each player may adjust up to three of the scores upward by +2, to a maximum of 18. For each number increased in this way, one of the remaining numbers must be decreased by -2, to a minimum of 6.
For instance, with an array of 16, 15, 13, 12, 9, and 7, you might choose to increase the 16 to 18, the 9 to 11, and the 7 to 9. However, you would then have to make three -2 adjustments, reducing the 15 to 13, the 13 to 11, and the 12 to 10.
  • After making any adjustments they like to the selected ability array (as described above), players assign each the six ability scores from the chosen array to any ability they choose.

Impact of Group Ability Generation

  • Preserves the fun of random generation.
  • Achieves completely fair ability scores for all characters.
  • Allows some customisation to satisfy players who enjoy builds, or allow for necessary adjustments to make a concept work in the event of a slightly awkward ability array.
  • Has a side effect of making PCs slightly tougher than the normal average, without breaking free of the bounds of the system's normal tolerances. A particularly useful side-effect a low levels when PCs are at most risk.

Group Ability Generation should satisfy pretty much any player's preferences and needs from the ability generation portion of the game. Plus, as with point-buy, if a one PC ends up significantly more powerful than another you'll know it wasn't because of their rolls and can focus your analysis elsewhere.

"Rule of 4s Hit Points"

This variant takes the form of two straightforward rules:
  • Replace a class's Hit Points at Higher Levels formula with d4 + (max of original die size - 4).
  • The minimum number of Hit Points gained per level is 4, regardless of the roll result.

The new formulae for each hit die size are shown on the table below.

Rule of 4s Hit Points at Higher Levels

Original Hit Points at Higher Levels Original Hit Point Average New Hit Points at Higher Levels New Hit Points Average
d6
4
d4 + 2
5
d8
5
d4 + 4
7
d10
6
d4 + 6
9
d12
7
d4 + 8
11


Impact of the Rule of 4s

  • Ensures that the majority of a character's hit points are predetermined, so characters are on a mostly even footing.
  • Retains a small amount of randomness, to satisfy those who like some chaos in their character generation.
  • Ensures that the random factor is consistent across the board.
  • Has a side effect of making PCs slightly tougher than the normal average, without breaking free of the bounds of the system's normal tolerances. A particularly useful side-effect a low levels when PCs are at most risk.

The Rule of 4s is nice and simple, the slight quirk of the minimum 4 hit point rule notwithstanding. There is an important reason for the presence of that clause, though. See if you can reason it out, and if you think you know why it's there, leave a comment!

Oscillating Initiative

Initiative is an area of the game that I feel is lacking in its present form. I don't want anything as involved as Speed Factor Initiative or the ludicrously complex (in my opinion at any rate) "Greyhawk" Initiative. All I really want is an Initiative system where a character's Initiative bonus actually matters, and isn't dwarfed into insignificance by the random factor of the roll.

Oread Ascetic (stock art by and © Brett Neufeld)

Presently, a character's Initiative is simply their Dexterity bonus. The only way to change that is to take the Alert Feat and receive a +5 bonus. Factoring in the ability score caps as well, that means that most characters have an Initiative modifier of between -2 and +5. The average of that is +1.5. Let that sink in. The average impact of a character on their Initiative roll is +1 or +2. That is essentially meaningless compared to the random element, the d20.

I also want legendary creatures to have an extra boost to Initiative, as I believe one of the reasons they can often underwhelm in play is the real possibility of the PCs overwhelming them if they don't get their turn early enough in the first round. I'll be discussing that in another article I'm planning called "Not So Legendary Monsters". For now, just bear in mind that I've added that to the houserule to satisfy a personal requirement but it's nonessential. If you don't like it you can ignore that part of this houserule with no impact on the rest.

Fate Dice

The Oscillating Initiative rule makes use of a single Fudge or Fate Die, (the term Fate Dice is probably better known these days, but they were Fudge Dice first). The roleplaying systems Fudge and Fate use four of these special six-sided dice. The "Plus" symbol is printed on two faces of a Fate die, the "Minus" symbol is on two other faces, and the remaining two are left blank. You can order Fate Dice from pretty much any online dice retailer, and likely your favourite local gaming store too. It's well worth owning a set, given that Fate Core is a great, painless system for one-off games. And once they're in your collection, you can find other uses for them. This houserule for instance! Since there are only 3 possible results on a Fate die, it can also make a handy d3 should you need one.

If you don't own a Fate Die and for some reason can't acquire one, any six-sided die can substitute. You can treat a 5 or 6 as a "Plus" result, a 1 or 2 as a "Minus", and a 3 or 4 as though you had rolled a "Blank". In practice, this is probably not the best approach for this houserule as you'll be rolling the Fate Die along with a d20, and you won't want another mental process to slow down the game. A better solution might be to use stickers or some other solution to mark the sides of the die you've chosen.

Q-Workshop Fudge Dice


The Oscillating Initiative Houserule

  • All PCs and monsters have a passive Initiative score equal to 10 + their Dex or Intelligence modifier, whichever is highest, + their Proficiency.
    • Legendary creatures add double their proficiency bonus to their passive Initiative score.
  • At the beginning of combat, players roll a ten-sided die and a Fate die.
    • If the Fate die is a +, the PC adds the result of the d10 to their passive score for that combat.
    • If the Fate die is a -, the PC deducts the result of the d10 from their passive score for that combat.
    • If the Fate die is blank, the PC uses their passive score for that combat.
  • For ease of play, monsters always use their passive Initiative score.

Impact of Oscillating Initiative

  • Using a Passive score with a possible variation of d10 in either direction has roughly the same range of variation (21 possible results compared to the d20's 20 possible results), while ensuring that the character both has a competent baseline and never strays too far from it.
  • A character's Initiative bonus is more than just their Dex mod, it grows along with their Proficiency. The combined bonus has a far greater impact on the character's Initiative results in relation to the d10 random element.
  • There is a 66% chance of using your passive score (typically a decent number) or improving upon it, which should be more satisfying overall.
  • The Alert feat retains its competitive advantage. A +5 is a significant addition to a character's passive Initiative score.
With this variant, the odds are in favour of either using your passive score or a result not too far from it. Therefore, the passive Initiative score is very important; characters who should be good at Initiative in relation to others will see this reflected in Initiative results, though it remains possible for other characters to have lucky breaks and get ahead in the initiative order sometimes.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

5e Fallout: A Flock of Ferals, Revisiting Radiation, Game Counters, and more!

As promised, I'm back with another installment of monsters for the Fifth Edition Fallout bestiary! In addition, this update includes expanded and new rules which are described later in this post.

All the creatures and other updates listed below have now been added to the Fifth Edition Fallout sourcebook which you can download from my dedicated Fifth Edition Fallout hub. With this update, Fifth Edition Fallout now has 68 pages of game content!

Please also note that the 1st level adventure A Date With the Queen has also received a minor update making small changes to raider, dog, and mole rat statblocks. You can also download the most recent version of the adventure from the Fifth Edition Fallout hub.

New Monstrous Additions to Fifth Edition Fallout

I ran a poll on twitter and as a result of the votes created stats for the various types of Feral Ghoul. As a bonus, I've also added a couple new power armour wearing raider bosses as well as the mysterious Ghost People (the creepy hazmat suit-wearing mutants that chase you around in the New Vegas add-on Dead Money)!

Feral Ghouls

  • Feral Ghoul (CR 1/2)
  • Feral Ghoul Roamer (CR 1)
  • Feral Ghoul Reaver (CR 2, also includes a variant sidebar for the Fallout 3 Feral Ghoul Reaver with ranged gore attack)
  • Feral Ghoul Stalker (CR 1)
  • Withered Feral Ghoul (CR 3)
  • Gangrenous Feral Ghoul (CR 5)
  • Rotting Feral Ghoul (CR 7)
  • Charred Feral Ghoul (CR 10)
  • Glowing One (CR 12)
  • Putrid Glowing One (CR 17)
  • Bloated Glowing One (CR 18)

Ghost People

  • Ghost Harvester (CR 4)
  • Ghost Trapper (CR 9)
  • Ghost Seeker (CR 9)

Raiders

  • Elite Raider Boss (CR 10)
  • Raider Overboss (CR 13)

Also in this Update

  • Expanded rules for radiation damage (see Revisiting Radiation below for a summary)
  • Advice on using tokens for radiation damage exposure, starvation, dehydration, and Luck.
  • Counter packs to use with the systems described above.
  • A new feat, Rad Resistance, which interacts with the radiation damage/geiger counter system.
  • Updated monster statblocks (a few fixes, also details on exactly what armour creatures are wearing to help DMs deal with player looting and the piecemeal armour system).
  • Update of power armour rules to clarify intent.

Revisiting Radiation

While thinking about feral ghouls and how to handle constant attacks by radioactive creatures, I realised two things:
  • Firstly, every time a PC is exposed to radiation they should have a chance of suffering the radiation sickness condition.
  • Secondly, forcing a PC to roll a Constitution saving throw every time they take radiation damage is far too dangerous.
The question I had to ask was how to reconcile these two seemingly contrary statements? I think I have the answer. Have a read of this and tell me what you think!

Exposure to Radiation Damage

As well as risking radiation sickness from exposure to atmospheric or environmental radiation, levels in the radiation sickness condition can also be the result of losing hit points due to an attack that deals radiation damage.

All creatures have a Rad Resist score, which is equal to 5 + their Constitution saving throw bonus. A creature's Rad Resist score increases by +1 every time their level increases.

Each time a creature suffers one or more points of radiation damage, its player is given a token known as a geiger counter (you can also keep a tally if you prefer not to use tokens). If the damage exceeds the creature's Rad Resist, they are given two geiger counters.

When a creature with one or more geiger counters takes a short rest, they make a Constitution saving throw with a DC equal to 8 + the total geiger counters they've collected. On a failed saving throw, they gain a level of radiation sickness.

Geiger Counters and RadAway

RadAway reduces radiation sickness by 2 levels and halves the character's current pool of geiger counters.

Geiger Counters at the Table

Geiger counters can be represented by poker chips, spare dice, homemade tokens, or anything that stands out at the table and can be handed out to players in quantities. Consider printing the awesome setting-appropriate tokens I've created and provided (see below)!

Fifth Edition Fallout Counters!

I've created a sheet of example geiger counters that you can print out on card stock, along with similar tokens you could use to keep track of a Fifth Edition Fallout PC's other fluctuating statistics, including Dehydration and Starvation as well as Luck (or Bad Luck).

Download the Counter Pack in either US Letter or International A4 format from my dedicated Fifth Edition Fallout hub.

Why not glue them to some pressed bottlecaps to create some very handsome and setting-appropriate accessories for your game table?



Dehydration Counters Geiger Counters Luck Counters
Dehydration Counters

Geiger Counters

Luck Counters

Starvation Counters Bad Luck Counters
Bad Luck Counters
Starvation Counters



Using These Counters

Guidance on how to use these counters has been added to the Fifth Edition Fallout sourcebook. A summary is also provided here.

Dehydration and Starvation Counters

Instead of tallying Starvation and Dehydration scores on paper, give a player between 0-2 Starvation counters and 0-2 Dehydration counters when they take a long rest, depending on how many meals and drinks they were able to consume that day. The pool of Starvation tokens in the player's possession physically represents their character's Starvation score. Similarly, the player's Dehydration pool is a tangible representation of their Dehydration score.

As the PC manages to reduce their Starvation and Dehydration scores, they give back the appropriate amount of counters from each pool.

Geiger Counters

Use these counters to track a character's continued exposure to radiation damage and translate it into possible radiation poisoning at each short rest, as described in Revisiting Radiation above.

Luck Counters

These counters can help track fluctuating Luck if this optional ability score is used in your game. A player starts with as many Luck counters as their character's Luck Score ability bonus (their "Luck Points". As a player spends their character's Luck Points, they discard counters from their pool. However many counters are left in the pool equals the character's new ability bonus, and the player can calculate from this what their present Luck Score must be given that each Point spent reduces their ability by 2 (to a minimum of 10 or 11). The player's spent Luck is returned to their pool after their character has a long rest.

Bad Luck Counters

Similarly, the player of a character with a negative Luck modifier is given that many Bad Luck counters instead. As the GM spends these, the player discards them. However many counters are left in the pool equals the character's new ability bonus, and the player can calculate from this what their present Luck Score must be given that each Point spent increases their ability by 2 (to a maximum of 10 or 11). The player's spent Bad Luck is returned to their pool after their character has a long rest.

If a GM has only one player character with Bad Luck or has a way to keep track of the separate pools of multiple PCs they may prefer to keep Bad Luck pools themselves so they are constantly reminded of available Bad Luck they can spend.

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! And please note that I'll be starting another twitter poll about which creatures to do next later tonight, so if you've got a particular type of monster in mind keep an eye out for that!

Sunday, 10 September 2017

5e: Your Nightmare Made Reality, the Keeysha Beast!

I recently ran a promotion on twitter, promising that after reaching 300 followers I would create a custom monster for D&D Fifth Edition based on a design brief provided by a randomly determined follower. That follower was @PatouLeFou, who provided me with the fascinating details of a creature he calls the Keeysha Beast! Bipedal, intelligent relatives of the displacer beast, these monsters were created by a goddess named Keeysha, and were named for her. Transformed mages, they possess powerful arcane abilities as well as the innate capabilities of a displacer beast. I've fleshed out the concept @PatouLeFou provided, and adjusted it so that the lore surrounding these creatures could be easily slotted into most worlds, even established settings like the Forgotten Realms. Notably, I reenvisioned Keeysha as a banished Archfey.

Since they are intelligent and powerful, and the direct creations of an entity with equivalent power to a demigod, the Keeysha Beast should make a good villain and boss monster. With that in mind, I opted to make my version a legendary creature.

The statblock of the Keeysha Beast is considered Open Game Content (see the Open-Gaming License). The Keeysha Beast's lore is not Open Game Content.

Keeysha Beast

A Keeysha Beast resembles its cousin the displacer beast, appearing to be a panther-like creature with malevolently glowing eyes. It has six powerful limbs and two long tentacles sprouting from its shoulders which widen at the ends into spike-covered pads. Unlike the displacer beast, a Keeysha Beast stands upright on two of its legs and is around ten feet tall. Like most other intelligent bipedal species it wears clothing: generally breeches on its lower half and a long hooded cloak around its shoulders. Its twin tentacles can either remain hidden under the cloak, or protrude through a pair of slits cut through the garment. The Keeysha Beast wields two scimitars with its lower pair of hands, and uses its upper arms to fire a powerful yew longbow.
Fey Creations. Like their less intelligent cousins, the Keeysha Beasts owe their current form to the magic of an Archfey of the Unseelie Court. Keeysha the Veiled was a mighty sorceress and master illusionist even by the standards of the other Archfey, and her power and ambition was feared by other members of the Court. It was she who first tamed the displacer beasts, and raised them from mere beasts to sly and magical creatures. When they escaped and ran amok, the Unseelie Court found an excuse to punish Keeysha, imprisoning her in a powerful relic called the Ash Diamond.
The precise chain of events that led the Ash Diamond to be relocated to the material plane are unknown, but it is certain that the artefact fell into the hands of a circle of magi who sought to use the power they detected within it as fuel for their ambitions. As they enacted their ritual the seal on the Ash Diamond was broken and Keeysha was freed. She turned her dark charms upon the mages and made them her slaves, then transformed them into agents of her will that resemble displacer beasts. It amuses Keeysha to think that she will return to the Feywild and destroy the Unseelie Court using instruments that take the same form as the creations for which she was imprisoned.
Lofty Ambitions. While they serve Keeysha loyally and do everything in their power to further her plans, Keeysha Beasts are vain and greedy creatures who carry their own grand aspirations. Keeysha is generally content to allow them a free reign as long as they continue to serve when she calls. In the past, Keeysha Beasts have masterminded many schemes in the search of personal power. They typically do not rely on their own kind, preferring to surround themselves with subservient minions, using those creatures to pursue their goals while they remain cloaked in intrigue. Some Keeysha Beasts have been known to gather monstrous armies and embark on campaigns of conquest. When multiple Keeysha Beasts do gather and pool their malevolent minds and considerable resources in the name of a single insidious plan, they can extend their influence to manipulate entire cities and nations.
Potently Magical. Created from the marriage of powerful magic users and Keeysha's own fey magics, a Keeysha Beast possesses massive reserves of arcane power. Their specialty is naturally illusion, which makes them frustrating opponents to deal with, particularly if they are able to prepare a scheme with which to confound their foes. Their other supernatural abilities cannot be discounted either, particularly their most dangerous weapon: an eye ray of deadly prismatic magic.
Pack Leaders. Keeysha Beasts possess an innate ability to influence displacer beasts they encounter, and most are therefore accompanied by a pack of their lesser cousins.


Keeysha Beast
Large monstrosity, lawful evil

Armor Class

14 (natural armor)

Hit Points

170 (20d10 + 60)

Speed

30 ft.
STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
16 (+3) 17 (+3) 16 (+3) 18 (+4) 15 (+2) 14 (+2)

Saving Throws

Dex +8, Wis +7

Skills

Arcana +9, Deception +7, Insight +7, Intimidation +7, Perception +7, Persuasion +7

Damage Resistances

bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks that aren't made with a magical weapon.

Condition Immunities

charmed

Senses

darkvision 120 ft.; passive Perception 17

Languages

Common, Sylvan

Challenge

14 (11,500 XP)

Arcane Sight.

Magical darkness doesn't impede the keeysha beast's darkvision.

Avoidance.

If the keeysha beast is subjected to an effect that allows it to make a saving throw to take only half damage, it instead takes no damage if it succeeds on the saving throw, and only half damage if it fails.

Baiting Blow.

Whenever a creature has disadvantage on attack rolls against the keeysha beast and misses, if the keeysha's own turn follows that creature in the initiative order or it uses one of its legendary actions immediately following their turn, the keeysha beast has advantage on the first attack it makes against them.

Displacement.

The keeysha beast projects a magical illusion that makes it appear to be standing near its actual location, causing attack rolls against it to have disadvantage. If it is hit by an attack, this trait is disrupted until the end of its next turn or until it uses its displace legendary action. This trait is also disrupted while the keeysha beast is incapacitated or has a speed of 0.

Innate Spellcasting.

The keeysha beast's innate spellcasting ability is Intelligence (spell save DC 17, +9 to hit with spell attacks). The keeysha beast can innately cast the following spells, requiring no material components:
At will: blade ward, minor illusion, shocking grasp
2/day each: arcane eye, evard's black tentacles, fly, major image, vampiric touch (cast as a 5th-level spell)
1/day each: programmed illusion, project image

Legendary Resistance (3/day).

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

Magic Resistance.

The keeysha beast has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.
Actions

Multiattack.

The keeysha beast makes four attacks: up to two attacks with its scimitars, up to two attacks with its longbow, and up to two attacks with its tentacles.

Scimitar.

Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 10 (2d6 + 3) slashing damage.

Tentacle.

Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d6 + 3) bludgeoning damage plus 3 (1d6) piercing damage.

Longbow.

Ranged Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, range 150/600 ft, one target. Hit: 11 (2d8 +2) piercing damage.

Prismatic Eye Rays (recharge 5-6).

The keeysha beast fires eight multicolored rays of magical light from its eyes which sweep over a 60-foot cone. Resolve this ability as though the keeysha beast had cast the prismatic spray spell.
Legendary Actions
The keeysha beast 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 keeysha beast regainst spent legendary actions at the start of its turn.

Detect.

The keeysha beast makes a Wisdom (Perception) check.

Displace.

The keeysha beast regains the benefits of its Displacement feature.

Predatory Shift.

The keeysha beast moves up to 15 feet, and may make a single scimitar attack at any point during this movement.

More Monsters!

When I hit 500 followers, I intend to to create additional monsters for two randomly selected followers. I'm looking forward to it!

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

5e: CR31+ Monsters

A while back I posted a series of statblocks representing the avatars of gods and powerful fiends.
I specifically created these four as they are major players in my current campaign, but they were fun to make and you can probably expect me to return to the series with further entries some time in the future. (and if you've got a particular entity you'd like to see, feel free to reach out with a suggestion!)

Some of the statblocks I presented had CRs higher than 30. As part of my first article on the Red Knight, I briefly discussed how I had calculated these CRs. I thought that today I would return to this subject with a more in-depth explanation of the decisions I made to arrive at these CRs.

To follow along with the article, you will need to have access to the guidelines for Creating a Monster from the Dungeon Master's Guide (or an electronic equivalent such as D&D Beyond or Fantasy Grounds).

Asmodeus
Asmodeus by Eric Deschamps

Making a CR 31+ Monster

When determining the CR of a monster, the guidelines boil down all its complexity to an aggregate of four things: its Hit Points, it Armour Class, its Damage Per Round, and its Attack Bonus. Optionally, a monster's Save DC may replace its Attack Bonus if it primarily uses saving throw effects, meaning that there are five data points that may be fed into the calculation, but only four are ever used at one time. As you will already know, other features are factored into the calculation as modifiers to one of those five statistics. But the rules for those adjustments are already in place, whch means we can focus our attention on these five things.

We'll do that by expanding the Monster Statistics by Challenge Rating table to also include CR 31 - CR 40, but first we need to figure out what each CR increase should actually mean so that we can populate the table. This table includes the aforementioned five statistics, as well as the expected Proficiency bonus. While Proficiency is not factored directly into the CR calculation, it is naturally an extremely important statistics, and a useful guide on what a monster's ability score bonuses must be to attain an appropriate Attack Bonus or Save DC.

  • Proficiency Bonus: The maximum Proficiency Bonus in the original table caps out at +9. This is, of course, three higher than the maximum Proficiency Bonus attainable by player characters. Given that fifth edition's bounded accuracy places upper limits on player defenses, it seems reasonable that we should be cautious of granting bonuses even higher than this. As you'll see when you read a little further, we cap Attack Bonus and Save DC, which means we can also cap Proficiency Bonus at +9.
  • Armour Class: The maximum AC in the original table is 19, which is reached at CR 17 and never improves—meaning it is the appropriate AC for just under half of all CRs in the table. My assumption here is that the designers want to be sure characters have a decent chance of hitting even the most powerful monsters. Chipping away at monolithic amounts of hit points still feels like progress, but missing entirely too often is simply not a fun experience. It seems prudent that AC 19 should remain the appropriate value at CR 31 and beyond. The monster creation rules do allow variations in AC and provide guidance on how that affects the final CR, so it is possible for the ACs of the monsters you design to creep higher, simply be careful not to set an AC so high that the only way to hit is to score a critical.
  • Hit Points: From CR 20 onwards, the expected hit point range increases by 45 hit points each time. Our addition to the table can continue this trend.
  • Attack Bonus: Attack bonus increases to +14 at CR 30, rather than plateauing much earlier as some other statistics have done. In theory that means we could increase it, but should we? +14 is already going to hit most characters more often than not. Is it necessary to keep reducing that margin, until the only possible way for the monster to miss anybody is to roll a 1? I would argue no. Just as we want a monster's AC to feel like an attainable target, for players to feel good about an encounter they need to know that it is possible for the enemy to miss them, however small that margin may be.
  • Damage Per Round: As with hit points, the ranges in the Damage Per Round column increase an equivalent amount for each CR above 20. In this case: 18. The additional CRs we are adding can continue to do so.
  • Save DC: Save Throw DCs increase to 23 at CR 30, and absolutely should not increase any further. Why? Because a typical proficient saving throw bonus is, at best, +11. Even with their best saves, level 20 characters already fail saving throws over half the time. With the four saves in which they are not proficient and only add their ability bonus, they'd be lucky to even be able to make the save on a roll of 20. Note that because Save DC and Attack Bonus are given equivalency in the CR calculation, capping Save DC at 23 is also further evidence that Attack Bonus should cap at +14.
  • Experience: CR 30 creatures are worth 155,000 xp, which 20,000 xp more than CR 29 creatures. I have simply increased the award of CR 31+ creatures by 20,000 xp per level. Practically speaking, these numbers barely matter. Characters that face these creatures and successfully defeat them will already have reached the highest level, or be a few levels shy of 20. In the latter case, defeating a CR 31+ creature might facilitate a jump from CR 17/18 straight to CR 20. It would be well deserved.

With this analysis done, we have established the pattern of improvement for CRs beyond 30: namely, that the hit point ranges of monsters with these CRs should increase by 45 each time, the Damage Per Round by 18, and the Experience award for defeating them by 20,000.

Monster Statistics by Challenge Rating 

(CR 31+)

Defensive Offensive
CR Prof. Bonus Armour Class Hit Points Attack Bonus Damage/Round Save DC XP
31
+9
19
851-895
+14
321-339
23
175,000
32
+9
19
896-940
+14
340-357
23
195,000
33
+9
19
941-985
+14
358-375
23
215,000
34
+9
19
985-1030
+14
376-393
23
235,000
35
+9
19
1031-1075
+14
394-411
23
255,000
36
+9
19
1075-1120
+14
412-429
23
275,000
37
+9
19
1121-1165
+14
430-447
23
295,000
38
+9
19
1166-1210
+14
448-465
23
315,000
39
+9
19
1211-1255
+14
466-483
23
335,000
40
+9
19
1256-1300
+14
484-501
23
355,000


CR 31+ Features

When we talk about monsters with CRs of 31 and above, we're talking about creatures with effectively godlike power. On the face of it, simply increasing the hit points and Damage Per Round of the monster a few steps might not seem like it would properly account for that level of power. In reality, however, the continued scaling of those two features might quickly take the monster beyond the means of your party to even deal with. Increasing Damage Per Round in particular makes the creature far too dangerous for your PCs to risk facing without significant preparation.

That said, a godlike monster should be more than just numerical padding. The features you create for such creatures should reflect their level of power. My deific avatars have access to a feature called Godly Magic, which lets them reproduce any spell of 5th-level or lower at will, and spells of higher level a certain number of times per long rest. In effect, this puts a cap on the destructive potential of the god while still demonstrating a near-limitless reserve of power. Another feature, Godly Resilience, grants proficiency to all saving throws and protects them from magical sleep, polymorph, scrying, and life drain. Naturally, all such features affect the CR of a level 31+ monster. Compare features you create as best as you can to other examples in the monster creation guidelines. When in doubt, make your best guess and it probably won't matter too much—after all, CRs are a rough guide, especially as they increase, and in any case monsters with CRs beyond 30 are meant to next to impossible for level 20 PCs to fight.

CR 31+ Hit Dice

I recommend that all CR 31+ creatures have d20 Hit Dice, regardless of their physical size. At minimum these creatures are powerful demi-deities, and worthy of epic endurance. Besides, at these hit point levels using smaller hit dice is just too great a hassle.

Why Bother?

With their maximum level set at 20, player characters are already meant to have a tough time dealing with monsters with CRs beyond 23 or 24. Beyond those CRs, monsters are theoretically the equivalent of Raid Bosses from MMOs—normally unattainable challenges that can only be overcome with large numbers or careful preparation.

Godlike monsters beyond CR 30 should be treated the same. Realistically, player characters should not face them without adequate preparation, which could take the form of one or more quests to find items that will weaken the monster or be especially effective when used against them. You could reduce the monster's hit points in the final encounter for each such item that is collected (or destroyed). You could give the PCs magical weapons that deal lots of bonus damage against the monster. Maybe the PCs find riddles or other clues which let them know how to interact with objects in the final encounter space to impair the monster's statistics, slow them down, etc.

It could be argued that you don't need the full statblock if you expect the PCs to have solutions before they face the monster. But let's be honest, players are unpredictable. Your party might find a way to meet the monster too early. If they do, they should face the price of rushing to the encounter. If any of them are fortunate enough to survive, they'll know better what they're dealing with, and why they have to prepare.

You might also want the statblocks of several such entities in case they ever come into conflict with each other and you need to adjudicate what happens. In my campaign, the Red Knight and Valkur are on the opposing side of a brewing conflict to Asmodeus and Pazuzu. If my players' choices every draw the story in a direction where two or more of them ever directly face each other in conflict, I'll be prepared for that situation.

Your Nightmare Made Reality - a winner selected!

Exactly a week on from my post announcing my 300th twitter follower would get to provide me a brief from which I'd design them a D&D 5e monster, Spilled Ale Studios has hit that milestone!

The randomly selected follower is (drumroll please) @PatouLeFou.

I'll be reaching out to @PatouLeFou shortly to let him know and get the details on the monster he'd like made! In the event he decides to opt out or I don't hear back, I'll choose another follower at random.

I'll be running this same giveaway at 500 followers, except two followers will be chosen at random!