use this 17th century city map for your home base

November 21st, 2014 by paul

My dad has this map of the city of Toulouse in 1631. I don't know where he got it. Maybe he picked it up in Toulouse in 1631.


click to enlarge

It's a super D&D-style map. It's one of those Greyhawk-like maps which shows every building in the city. Furthermore, it's numerically keyed. The original map labels 100 or so locations in the city - in French of course. I've deleted all the key text and street/river names so you can write your own.

Here's a representative neighborhood:


The numbers are scattered haphazardly around the map, so it's pretty hard to look up the location of, say, 36. Give them a break. In 1631, D&D was in its infancy. The numbers are also tiny: the best-resolution map I could find is just good enough to read the numbers, but could be better.

So you want to drop this map into your campaign world. What kind of city does it represent?

According to Wikipedia, Toulouse in the 1690s had 40,000 inhabitants. In 1631 that was probably a little lower. I estimate that this map shows about 5 or 6 thousand houses. You could plausibly fit that population into that number of buildings, so this map could actually show every house in what the 3e DMG would classify as a Large City or even a Metropolis. This could be your big home base city, and you can key every church, palace, inn, and NPC's home, if you so desire.

What's the scale of the city? I left the charming medieval French scale bar. Distance is measured in "pais", or paces. A pace was 30 inches, which is a great D&D number because two paces is exactly 5 feet. Toulouse is about two miles across in its widest dimension.

Also interesting to note: city blocks in 17th century Toulouse were a big ring of buildings surrounding some outside space: orchards, gardens, or common pasture. If this map is to be believed, everyone had a backyard. That observation matches with similar medieval city maps: check out Brussels. Sure, these cities feature filth in the streets, cramped alleys, and overhanging second floors, but there are lots of public squares and semi-private green places.

Another thing: Toulouse's shape. It looks like a heart, broken by the river running through it. City of the broken heart?

Here's a one-page PDF of the map. It might be better served by a two-page spread with larger, less randomly placed numbers. I leave that as an exercise to the DM.

what’s this about a shakespearian D&D storyline?

November 11th, 2014 by paul

At Gamehole Con this weekend, Chris Perkins dropped some D&D future product spoilers. For instance, you might have heard him say that there will be a 5e Open Game License. But you might have missed this tidbit: a future D&D storyline will be "a giants based story influenced by a Shakespearean play." That sounds nuts!

sparta-romeo-and-julietSo my question is: what Shakespeare play?

The Tempest: Elminster is washed up on a desert island with his daughter? who exists apparently? Elminster enslaves some spirits giants. Years later, the PCs wash up ashore. In classic Forgotten Realms fashion, Elminster messes with the PCs for a while and then fixes everything.

A Midsummer Night's Dream: Titania and Oberon, rulers of the fairie court, are already D&D canon. Throw some enemy giants or fomorians in there. Half of the players must wear donkey heads and the other half must wear fairy wings and glitter.

Henry V: How about Henry V mashed up with Against the Giants? Choose from exciting 8th level pregens like
-King Henry, a rogue 5/paladin 3, who gives inspiring speeches like "Once more unto the breach glacial rift of the frost giant jarl, dear friends, once more!"
-Scrope, a fighter 8, a friend of the King. The DM secretly informs him that he's actually a traitor working for the giants.
-Falstaff, a rogue 8, who has a really cool character concept but isn't allowed to attend any sessions and dies offscreen in an NPC speech.

Romeo and Juliet: A forbidden love between rival factions. Is Romeo a giant, or is Juliet? Both possibilities are creepy. Or is Romeo a fire giant and Juliet a frost giant? The PCs all play the part of Mercutio and are all killed before the end of the adventure.

As You Like It: A pastoral comedy set in the Forest of Arden. The "all the world's a stage" speech is changed to "all the world's a D&D game" and is read aloud by the most morose player. There are no giants in this adventure, but for the sake of the adventure, Shakespeare is considered to be a giant.

Tamburlaine by Christopher Marlowe: Perkins did say a Shakespearean play, not a Shakespeare play, which lets in the other Elizabethan playwrights. Tamburlaine is a mass-combat campaign suitable for epic characters (armies are numbered in the hundreds of thousands). It's easy to find inspiration from its blood-and-thunder speeches like

What means this devilish shepherd, to aspire
With such a giantly presumption,
To cast up hills against the face of heaven,
And dare the force of angry Jupiter?
But, as he thrust them underneath the hills,
And press'd out fire from their burning jaws,
So will I send this monstrous slave to hell,
Where flames shall ever feed upon his soul.

Right there we have devil shepherds (and, by inference, devil sheep?), giants, burning jaws, and a monstrous slave who is sent to hell, all of which could be statted up.

Which is your Viking race?

November 4th, 2014 by paul

Vikings are so D&D, because, you know, vikings are so metal, and metal is so D&D, and the transitive property. Hell, Basic D&D has a viking on the cover.

vikingsIt's pretty much a requirement that your campaign world have a viking culture. (To be a D&D viking you must wear horned helmets and raid in longships.) So who are the vikings in your D&D campaign? You didn't... forget the vikings, did you? No worries! Come right this way, we'll fix you right up.

The typical viking races

Humans: On Earth, the real vikings were all human, so humans get a big edge right off the bat. The ubiquitous human "barbarians of the frozen north" are very strong viking candidates. In fact, the 5e PHB Barbarian illustration is a human viking. In your campaign, do the barbarians of the frozen north have longships? If so, congratulations! You're done.

Dwarves: Appearance- and culture-wise, dwarves are basically short vikings. They have beards, horned helmets, axes, and mead halls. There's just one problem. They're typically AFRAID OF BOATS. This is a major disadvantage for going a-viking. Maybe dwarves are just really good at facing their fear. If you can get the dwarves onto the deck of a ship, they make great vikings, of the "we're good guys for some reason, never mind what we do on our raids" variety.

Dragonborn: Dragonborn as vikings explains a few things. 1) Why did dragonborn just appear in your campaign in 4e or 5e? (They sailed in from an offscreen Fantasy Scandinavia continent.) 1) Why do longships always have dragon prows? (Those aren't wooden figureheads; longships are built around the mummified remains of the tribe's draconic ancestor, and the ship itself has a breath weapon.)

Orcs: Orcs have a lot of things going for them. They love to pillage and they look good in horned helmets. Orcs are a fun enemy; they're even more fun when 30 of them can loot an undefended village and sail away before the PCs arrive. Give the PCs the mission of defending several coastal villages. That's right: time to split the party.

the atypical viking races

halflings: If you use halflings as your viking race, you're really playing against type. Let's do our best. Armored up, and wielding half-sized military forks, halflings sail their shortships into unsuspecting villages, arrive at peoples' houses right before lunchtime, and sit around looking expectantly at the buffet table.

medusas: Beautiful armored women gallop across the sky, surveying the battlefield. They choose the mightiest mortal warriors - and turn them to stone so that they will each be immortal monuments of their own prowess. On Ragnarok, Odin casts Stone to Flesh across the earth.

sea elves: Sea elves have all of the tactical advantages of vikings - they can raid coastal communities with impunity - but they don't need boats. Give them double axes and green elf-beards, and give them some way to keep their mead from floating away in the sea water (squeeze bottles?)

scrags: This approach is pretty similar to sea elves, except using sea trolls instead. Up till now, I've never had any use for scrags. But I'm amused by the idea of using a race of Grendels as the horn-helmeted, mead-swilling Beowulf clones.

wights: The word "wight" means "man" in Middle English and Germanic languages. Take that literally and you get a faction of intelligent undead warriors, sort of like the Forsaken from WoW or the White Walkers from Game of Thrones. Put them on longboats and play some heavy metal and you have a pretty badass enemy.

how to make a magic sword that everyone hates

October 24th, 2014 by paul

Because there's not enough magic swords, right? Here's a semi-cursed magic sword I made up for last week's game.

It's a scimitar that appears to be made out of pure gold, with a fanged mouth at the end of the hilt. Its name is "Feed me gold!"

The sword can be in two states: hungry or sated. When it's first discovered, it's hungry.

Hungry: The sword periodically roars "Feed me gold!" or "Give me gold or I will smite you all!" in an ear-splitting Yosemite Sam voice (audible for half a mile). It takes especial care to yell when enemies are nearby or when its owners are sneaking. The hungry sword is heavy and clumsy in combat (-1). Once per day, the sword can cast Knock. It does so only to thwart its owner or to change owners (for instance, by unlocking a door between it and a thief).

The sword requires 1 GP per day to be sated.

Sated: The sword acts as a +1 intelligent scimitar (it has Int, Wis, and Cha of 8). It will speak at a reasonable volume. It can cast Knock once a day at its owner's request. When it casts Knock, it yells, "Gold opens all doors!"

Here's how I introduced the sword: lodged in the back of a dark cave, shouting imperiously for gold in a scary monster voice, and bossing around the local peasants.

My group hates the sword. One character wants to throw it in the river. Others are like, "Well, it's a jerk, but it is a +1 sword. We should probably keep it." It galls them to pay an object; they'd probably be much happier if they'd bought it outright.

It's funny because the group also hired some mercenaries in the same session, for exactly the same price, 1 GP/day. To be fair, a henchman is better because when they die you can take back their salary.

diseases that make you stronger (and then kill you)

October 17th, 2014 by paul

I just recovered from a 24 hour flu. In honor of which, enjoy these plagues.

The Dancing Death: In its first stage, which lasts for weeks, this disease has no effect. In its second stage, which lasts several days, the victim feels energetic and manic, doesn't sleep very much, and probably seeks out scenes of feasting and celebration. Finally, in the third stage, which lasts about a minute, the victim begins a dance which becomes more spastic and terrifying, and dies. Anyone who sees the dance is infected.

Black Eyed Beauty: Stage one is a minor cold. When you recover, your eye color changes to black. Your charisma is now 18. Even people who know you're diseased must make a will/wisdom save to leave your presence. During this period, you spread the disease by touch. After a week or two of this, you die, leaving a beautiful corpse.

Brain Fever: Stage one: You are bedridden with a dangerously high fever for three days. You must make a DC10 Con check to survive, with appropriate bonuses if someone is tending you. Stage two: your intelligence and wisdom increase to 22. You can read at 10x speed and have perfect recall. If you're already working on a project, you become obsessed with its completion. Otherwise you become obsessed with the first project that's suggested to you. After three days of this, you die. During stage 2, Cure Disease does not work on you. When you die, a small spider crawls out of your mouth. Anyone bitten by the spider must make a DC 12 save or become infected. Evil wizards sometimes harvest these spiders and purposely infect peasants to act as their research assistants.

the Great Stag – a stellar one-page dungeon

October 10th, 2014 by paul

Here's a one-page dungeon that takes mid-level PCs out into the stars in a brand-new space ship. Each "dungeon room" is a planet. onepagedungeon

Download the PDF

SHIP: A richly decorated sailboat, the Omelet, teeters on a high cliff. A peryton sits upon black eggs in the gore-spattered crow's nest. She will attack any who try to approach. She leaves for an hour each noon in search of human hearts.

SHIP DECK: Single mast; aft cabin; fore ballista. A recent corpse, heart ripped out, lies on deck.

AFT CABIN: Ship wheel; tiny kitchen featuring pan and egg whisk; four beds; four foot lockers. One locker holds foppish clothes worth 150 GP, all monogrammed “Captain P.”

HOLD: 20 barrels, 6 containing water and 5 containing 50 pickled eggs each, no two alike.

SAILING THE OMELET: The "ship wheel" is a white stone disc graven with an unfamiliar constellation: the Great Stag. Each star can be pressed like a button. The PCs start at "Lawless World." They may navigate along constellation lines to an adjacent star by pressing that star. The ship will rise into space, automatically make sail, and cross the cosmic void. Each voyage takes a day and calls for a mid-trip random encounter roll. At its destination, the boat will land at a pre-programmed spot on the star's single planet. There is no way to alter the ship's route mid-journey. Characters can move and breathe normally on the ship's deck; if separated from the ship, they must swim and hold their breath as if underwater.

SHIP COMBAT: The Omelet: AC 10, HP 50. If reduced to 0 HP: immobile until repaired. Ballista: longbow range, 4d6 dmg.

STAR MAP KEY: Random encounter roll on arrival and every 8 hours.
Lawless world: The PCs’ home world.
Swamp world: d4 random encounters: 1-2: 2d10 cavemen (2 HD) who worship “Sky God’s Blood”, an intelligent deep red ioun stone which will orbit whoever praises it most extravagantly. 3-4: 2d6 lizardmen lying in ambush: their eggs were stolen by “Captain P.”
Egg world: d4 encounters: 1-2: Peryton. 3-4: Villagers (blue, humanoid, lay blue eggs) need “tributes” for next peryton meal. (The route from “Egg World” to “Swamp World” goes over a black hole: 2 in 6 to fall in, d6 ship damage, teleports ship to a random world.)
Dungeon world: Riddled with lost dungeons. Near the landing site is a random dungeon from the 2014 One-Page Dungeon contest, with reflavored alien monsters (three-armed goblins, etc). d3 encounters: 1: 2d6 zombies who repeat the last phrase they hear. 2: wraith lamenting world’s past glories. 3: 1d4 suspicious post-apocalyptic survivors.
Peaceful world: No planet, just asteroid field. Ship takes 1d4 damage.
Lawless moon: Much like the PCs’ world except everyone’s name has apostrophes. d3 encounters: 1: 2d10 bandits led by Chief t’Rath’ri. 2: Village of Hom’Leth, offers to pay 50 gold k’chaa to heroes who’ll save them from the bandits. 3: K’bold tribe, awaiting a Chosen One to lead them against the bullying bandits and villagers.
My world: Only feature is an oak desk near the landing site, containing a manuscript about eggs by “Captain Prometheus.” Allows reader to predict the effect of eating any pickled egg. (Secret space passage: PCs can fly directly to Ice World from this location.)
Deserted world: d3 encounters, all with invisible stalkers: 1: Child voice singing creepy rhymes. 2: PCs feel that they’re being followed. 3: Angry voice asks why the PCs, not content with making us perform their assassinations, must invade our home planet? Speaker then attacks.
Ice world: d4 encounters: 1-2: Dozens of hidden ice worms, each 100 feet apart and attached to a vast medusa head floating under the ice. 3-4: 1d6 frost giants. Will flee from fire, which they have never seen.
Mausoleum world: Deserted planet, covered with burial monuments and quarries. Landing plaza: a tower topped with a swivel mirror in each corner, a huge door in the south wall. If all 4 mirrors shine sunlight on the door, it opens, leading to a mummy and four coffer corpses in an underground funeral barge. 5 pieces of jewelry (1000-6000 GP each), 1 of which fuses permanently to its wearer.
??? Asteroid field. The PCs must turn back, unless the DM has devised another constellation for them to explore.

RANDOM SPACE ENCOUNTER: roll d12. One roll per journey.
1: Blue dragon. Captain P stole her egg; wants it back.
2: Wolf-spider slavers in war galley (AC 13, HP 60). Will catch and board the Omelet in 3 turns. 10 Wolf-spiders: attack as dire wolf. 50 slaves: noncombatants. Hold: 600 GP in ivory and silks.
3: Lurker Above disguised as starry sky, will attack anyone on deck.
4: Solar storm lasts 3 turns. Does 1d4 ship damage each turn, -1 damage for each intelligent countermeasure.
5-8: Uneventful passage.
9: Herd of pegasi in the distance, attracted only by other equines.
10: Merchant ship (AC 12, 100 HP, 30 crew, 3 ballistas). Ask “Where’s Captain P?” Will buy eggs for 10 GP each, sell laser swords (as longswords, d10 fire damage) for 300 GP, repair the Omelet for 100 GP.
11: Migrating flumph tribe. Describe the perils of PCs’ destination.
12: Cthulhoid space leviathan. Will ignore PCs unless they act foolish.

RANDOM EGG INGESTION: roll d12. Effects last d4 days, 1 at a time.
1: Alien parasite: Cure Disease before d4 days or things get crazy.
2: Sickened: Max HP lowered by 1d6.
3: Polymorphed: into egg-laying species, DM’s choice.
4-9: No unusual effects.
10: Sated: PC needs no food, water, or air.
11: Lucky egg: player can reroll any one die roll.
12: Good egg: Random attribute raised 1d4 points.

random city charts for chase/exploration

October 1st, 2014 by paul

I wrote up these urban d20 charts a while ago, when I was in Venice and Florence. I based the street-exploration and roof-exploration charts on the sights around me; I'll admit, I didn't explore the sewers (does Venice even have sewers? I bet they're not much fun to explore).

How are these charts different from other urban random tables?

1) They're architectural. You'll have to go elsewhere for random monsters or for random tavern names.
2) They generate complex results. In old cities like Venice, you don't just find a canal or a courtyard; we found a canal with an overgrown garden on the other side, and a courtyard with a tavern right in the middle of it, and a bridge over an alley. For each of these charts, you roll 2d20 and come up with some combination of the two features.

I think these tables are especially useful for chase scenes. You don't care if you're passing a drainpipe unless someone is after you. For chases, make a 2d20 roll each turn, and let the PCs and villains react to the environment. If players take some time to investigate the area, make a third check and integrate that result. ("From the bridge over the alley, you can jump to a rickety outer staircase.")

florence-alleyPART 1: STREETS:

1) What's the defining characteristic of the city or neighborhood? Venice has canals. Greyhawk's Old City has ramshackle buildings. Empyrian, your campaign's capital of the Empire of Fire, has basalt air bridges. And so on. Work that into your descriptions.
2. Roll d20 twice and combine the two architectural features, keeping in mind the city's defining characteristic.

1 blind alley: dead end, unless you can climb the wall at the end
2 courtyard: dead end, unless you want to knock on people's doors
3 well/cistern
4 roofed alley: roof is uncomfortably low for tall people
5 lost courtyard: tiny, dark, between tall buildings. There may be one day in the year where the sun shines in.
6 small bridge: over a river, canal, or street, or maybe between spires.
7 large bridge with market stalls: generally over the city's main river, but it might be between palace towers.
8 market square
9 church square
10 street of shops
11 tavern
12 outer stairs
13 archway
: may have a gate that's locked at night.
14 weird statue/carving
15 walled or fenced garden
16 mansion
17 fountain
18 stairs to higher/lower street
: usually in a small street, since it's inaccessible to wheeled vehicles.
19 obstruction: wooden door, metal grate, canal, wall
20 unique city landmark: palace, giant statue, ziggurat of blood, floating gardens, or something else that everyone in the city has heard of.

Dubrovnik RooftopsPART 2: ROOFTOPS:
You're not on a rooftop unless you're involved in a chase or a heist, so this is tailored to action sequences.
Roll d20 twice and combine the architectural features, keeping in mind the city's defining characteristic.

1 balancing act: archway, clothesline, or wall to adjoining building
2 vertical jump: big height difference between adjoining buildings
3 wide jump: main street - wide gap between rooftops
4 slope: sharply slanted roof (possible loose tiles) or dome
5 mansion: flat roof with glass-covered or spiked battlements (possibly patrolled by guards)
6 nice view: roof garden (possible garden party), Assassins Creed-style vista, or hidden spot that lets you spy on an interesting location
7 flat roof: possibly containing a family, who might be eating or sleeping
8 end of the neighborhood: internal city wall or river
9 descent into building: trapdoor, door or stairs down, chimney or skylight
10 tower: guard tower, bell tower, clock tower, or mage tower
11 town square: extremely wide gap between buildings; crowds below
12 coming through: adjacent higher building with accessible windows or doors
13 long drop: perilous but climbable ledge, gargoyles, or carving around side of building
14 descent to street: drainpipe, external stairs
15 safe to jump off: jutting flag/signpole/awning/balcony
16 internal courtyard
17 hiding spot: cistern, crevice, bell tower, hole into attic
18 delicate roof: thatched or glass
19 danger: trap, collapsing roof, guard post, bird nails
20 something unexpected: complete sailing ship, trampoline mushrooms, lightning circle, bridge, cannon, climbable smoke

Roll d20 twice and combine the architectural features.

1 intersection with big, well maintained, main sewer tunnel with sidewalks and bridges
2 intersection with medium tunnel where you have to wade
3 intersection with small tunnel where your head is barely above the filth
4 intersection with tiny tunnel where you have to squeeze and might get stuck if you backtrack
5 barred or grated tunnel: must backtrack unless your other roll lets you continue
6 dead end: must backtrack unless your other roll lets you continue
6 dangerously rapid underground river
7 street grate above
8 climbable privy shaft or well shaft
9 sloping passage: to deeper level, difficult to climb up (on lower levels, all passages to surface instead lead to a higher level of the sewer)
8 entrance to hidden location: dungeon, cavern system, forgotten city, crypts, secret temple, secret entrance to fortified part of the city, private mansion with wine cellar
9 lair: monsters, cultists, ratlings, outlaws, grimlocks, thieves guild, sewer workers, gelatinous tube*, etc
10 hiding or rest spot: dry nook with door/concealable entrance
11 You are here: sign or map on the wall saying where you are in the city
12 what's that sound? It's a sluice that opens/closes every once in a while, changing water flow and possibly crushing PCs: it might be horizontal or might be a drain below
13 forward progress is completely underwater
14 pipe above that's dumping filth
15 check again in 60 feet: boring ol' continuation of the pipe you're in
16 breakable wall: roll to see what's behind it
17 gadgets: pumps, valves, levers, or other machinery that may or may not cause problems if messed with
18 danger: poison gas, bad air, portcullis trap, rising water level, pit
19 treasure cache: wedding ring that was lost down a drain, floating corpse with treasure, stolen items hiding spot, or just copper tubes that can be sold
20 wondrous vista: magnificent thoroughfare of forgotten city or palace, with mosaics and statues, now used as sewer tunnel, or chasm criss-crossed with sewer pipes and lit from below by distant torches, or huge cavern with crystal stalactites and glowing birds flying around, or massive body of dead god, or portal to the plane of air. Max 1 wonder per sewer system! It's a civic ordinance.

*A gelatinous cube that has adapted to sewer pipes.

no, use THIS Monster Manual index by Challenge Rating

September 24th, 2014 by paul

I have a new index for your Monster Manual. Here's why it's useful.

So every review of the Monster Manual that I read - EVERY review - said, "Great book, but why is it missing a monster index by Challenge Rating??"

In his review on Critical Hits, Mike Shea not only noted its absence but provided one, building on Mouseferatu's sortable monster list. Mike's list was especially cool because it fit on one page, so you could tape it inside your Monster Manual's back cover. Sweet!

A few days later, WOTC released its own MM index by CR. This one was cool because it included XP values and used shorter and more wieldy monster names. However, it was several pages long, so it was a little harder to keep with your Monster Manual.

Both indexes shared a problem: it was hard to look up some monsters because you weren't sure where they were in the book. Is Awakened Shrub alphabetized under "Awakened Shrub," or "Blight," or "Treant" maybe, or is it in the Animals appendix?* Which of the following monsters get their own entry and which are in the Animals appendix: Blink Dog, Death Dog, Displacer Beast, Winter Wolf, Worg?*

I've made a Challenge Rating index that brings it all together: it
a) includes XP so you can budget an encounter without looking up the monsters
b) includes monster page numbers so you can actually find the Awakened Shrub entry
      but it all still
c) fits on one page so you can tape it inside your Monster Manual
      all while
d) having a much larger font than the one used in the actual Monster Manual index!

Here is the monster manual CR index! Clip and tape.

*Awakened Shrub in the Animals appendix.
**Displacer Beast gets its own entry; the rest are in the animals appendix.

Rory and I are credited in the Monster Manual!

September 22nd, 2014 by paul

Rory and I were both 5e alpha testers. Not only that, we were among a handful of people who got alpha drafts of the Monster Manual, upon which we each submitted volumes of feedback.

mmcreditsCheck it out - here we are in the credits. There's about 30 people who provided "additional feedback," so Blog of Holding makes up about 7% of that list.

I'm reading the official Monster Manual now, and I'm pleased that a lot of my suggestions were taken. In fact, about 50 monsters seem to have been changed based on my feedback.

I'd love to share all the changes with you - I'm absurdly proud of some of my tweaks - but I'm still under NDA. I'll non-specifically break down the general categories of my comments.

About 1/4 of my suggestions were prose fixes and copy editing. These are all things that would have been found on the editing pass anyway, so they're not really changes I can take credit for. It may have been a waste of time for me to submit them, but it doesn't hurt to have more eyes on the document, and I'm sure WOTC doesn't mind a little unpaid copy editing.

Another 1/4 of my edits were questions that led to rules clarifications. Again, I'm not particularly proud of these (or ashamed of them either). It's nice to spell out how monster attack A interacts with monster attack B, but 5e tries to empower the DM to make this kind of judgment call anyway. My questions led to a little more precise language, which makes things a little easier, I guess.

I am proud of some of my fixes, though. Most of my remaining changes are gifts to the DM: things that make the world make more sense, and things that make monsters scarier or easier to run. This guy should do more bite damage, considering the size of his teeth! This guy should have a higher INT, since he's described as a mastermind! Can we get rid of this complicated mechanic? Can this guy use a stat-block ability instead of a spell I have to look up in the PHB?

Finally, I'm most proud of my handful of changes that are gifts to the players. When it comes to players, the Monster Manual is a book that's heavier on tricks than on treats, but I got a couple in. When you and your party are dogfighting a dragon on your exotic flying mounts, say, "Paul, you are the wind beneath my wings."

I also had tons of suggestions that weren't taken. Dragons have great lair actions, but I wish they had more varied normal attacks. I wish there wasn't a Neutral Good slaver race. And I know it's minor, but I wish that goblins didn't have 2 HD. They're goblins!

I submitted one more type of feedback I haven't mentioned yet: praise. The 5e monsters have so many great, inspiring new details. I'm sure WOTC won't mind if I'm specific about some of the things they did right:

The solar has a legendary action that permanently blinds people who presume to look upon it. This is resoundingly mythic.

The stone giant story about the "dreaming world beneath the sky" is beautiful. Stone giants were dead last in the giants-I-want-to-use race; now they're first.

The lich has great lair actions. I particularly like the clever mechanic that recharges spells on a roll of a d6. The details of the mechanic encourage the DM to use the lich's low-level spell slots, since they have a greater chance of recharging; this is fun because it makes for a more unpredictable fight.

Have you seen this detail in previous editions? If they don't have specific orders, skeletons tend to perform the habitual actions they did in life: sharpen swords, patrol, etc. I love the idea of entering a skeleton-ridden town and finding some skeletons out in the fields behind skeletal oxen, some raising empty tankards in the inn, and some plucking at looms empty of thread.

whoa, D&D 5e economy is compatible with ACKS

September 18th, 2014 by paul

I crunched some numbers. 5e doesn't have a super fleshed-out economy, but the few data points in the PHB match up pretty well with Adventurer Conqueror King, which has a very robust and internally consistent economic model.

This is good news. ACKS expands D&D's footprint in some cool ways, into a high-level world simulator and war machine. Slotting this into 5e is very appealing to me.

What does a gold piece mean?

Compatibility basically rests on one question: does a gold piece mean approximately the same amount of money in both systems?

Equipment-wise it does. A 5e longsword costs 15 GP. An acks "sword" costs 10. The longsword has cost either 10 or 15 GP since the D&D/AD&D split. What about the high end of the equipment list? Admittedly, armor prices are way off. Plate armor is 60 in ACKS and 1500 in 5e, but armor prices are generally peculiar in 5e. Ship prices match the traditional D&D prices in both games: 10k for a sailing ship, 30k for a galley, etc.

It's not surprising that 5e and ACKS start with a similarly-priced equipment list, since they're both descended from TSR D&D. Things get more interesting when we look at the non-equipment extrapolations: price of grain, income for laborers, stuff like that.

First of all, both games have a very similar "cost of living" chart. 5e's is presented as a fixed daily number and ACKS as a monthly number range, so I've converted them both to fixed monthly numbers. I've left out some brackets to match them as well as I can. ACKS, for instance, has tons of high-income brackets, as befits a game focused on high-level play, while 5e simply says "in the Aristocratic tier, you can spend as much as you want."

5e                                     ACKS
Wretched: 0 gp (outcast)               Wretched: 1 gp (serf)
Poor: 6 gp (unskilled laborer)         Meager: 7 gp (unskilled laborer)
Modest: 30 gp (laborer)                Adequate: 26 gp (laborer)
Comfortable: 60 gp (skilled tradesman) Comfortable: 70 gp (master craftsman, 
                                                          farmer w 85 acres)
Wealthy: 120 gp (favored of royalty)   Prosperous: 275 gp (patrician, 200 acres)
Aristocratic: 300+ gp (noble)          various brackets: 450+ (noble)

These charts are strikingly similar. It's almost as if the 5e guys took a look at ACKS... for which I wouldn't blame them. If you're serious about having a rational economy, you need to consult Alexander Macris's work at some point.

Here are the 5e prices of the main agriculture and mining staples:
1 lb wheat: 1 cp
1 lb iron: 1 sp

I can't find direct prices for ACKS good by the pound, but in the mercantile rules, I find that 80 stone of grain costs 10 GP. That comes to... 1.12 cp per pound of wheat. Pretty damn close. In ACKS, "common metal" is 200 GP per 100 stone, or 1.4 sp/pound. Given that "common metal" is already an abstraction, that's close enough for me.

Livestock are easier: no stone-to-pounds conversions here. Here are the 5e and ACKS prices: pretty similar, except for the big markup on ACKS chickens.

               5e    ACKS
1 chicken:     2 cp  1 sp
1 pig:         3 gp  3 gp
1 cow:         10 gp 10 gp
1 draft horse: 50 gp 30-40 gp

Here's something interesting: a "comfortable" ACKS yeoman farmer has 85 acres and makes 70 gp/month. Farmers don't really make monthly income, though; more likely it's around 420 gp at each of the two yearly harvests. That means that, after harvest, a farmer has a LOT of wealth in the barn - but instead of gold, it's in the form of several tons of grain and vegetables. Murder-hobo adventurers, try to figure out some way to make a profit out of that.

There are still some potential speedbumps in the so-far-unreleased 5e Dungeon Master's Guide. How much does a 5e castle cost? How much treasure do PCs earn? 5e could wildly diverge from ACKS at high levels. So far, though, it looks like you could coherently play 5e and use ACKS for your treasure, trade, and domain management.