Posts Tagged ‘uncanned’

5e: Not enough rituals

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

5e has a luxuriously complete spell list, and an absurdly small number of its spells have the ritual tag. Bards, clerics, and druids have over 100 spells each, and each of these classes has exactly 12 ritual spells – about 10%. Wizards, who have the biggest spell list at 213 spells, have 17 rituals, which is only 8% of their list. Sorcerers have four rituals. Warlock is the worst offender because it has a big class feature and invocation devoted to collecting ritual spells – but it’s a trap. Of its four rituals, three are first level.

The dearth of rituals makes me think that they’re priced wrong. WOTC realized that their generous ritual rules (cast a spell free in ten minutes) led to abuses with too many spells. They pulled back and now only 10% of the spells are ritualizable.

This compares unfavorably with my original hope for spells: every spell can be cast as a ritual!

I think this dream is still possible if we tweak the cost. +10 minutes is clearly too low a cost. Money (as in 4e) is too high a cost. What about adding arbitrary restrictions instead of cost?

As before, you can cast any known spell as a ritual, whether or not it’s prepared, by adding 10 minutes. New rule: you can ritually cast a number of spell levels equal to your character level. This refreshes on a short or long rest. You can only ritually cast one spell of level 6 or higher per day.

What do we do with the few official ritual-tag spells that WOTC thinks are safe, un-spammable, and OK to cast unlimited times a day? Let’s let them be cast unlimited times without costing any ritual spell levels, as in the official rules.

So how open is this to abuse? Not very, I think. Cast a Fireball as a ritual? Sure, useful for a few free lobs in slow-paced siege warfare. Cure Wounds as a ritual? Sure, it gives clerics a nice, limited apply-herbs thing to do out of combat. Wish as a ritual? Yeah, once a day. What about the fact that any spell is now open to ritual dabblers, like warlocks and users of the Ritual Caster feat? I’m fine with it. If a barbarian wants to spend a feat on Ritual Caster so he can cast Bear’s Endurance or Fireball a few times a day, I’ll allow it.

D&D Next healing idea: the “Soldier On” rule

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Mike Mearls recently confessed that the 5e design team is out of ideas for healing.

Here’s my proposal for 5e healing. I’ll call it the “Soldier On” rule.

In a short rest, you can bring your HP up to 2/3 of your max HP. Beyond that, your HP can only be raised through magic or through overnight healing. Overnight healing is old-school slow – say 1 or 2 HP per day.

Basically, the top 1/3 of your HP is physical injuries. The bottom 2/3 is energy, luck, and will. Your last 1 HP is a mortal wound. This is not too far from a wounds/vitality system except that it doesn’t require you to maintain two different HP tracks: the only rule change from First Edition is that you heal up a little after a battle.

This rule allows injured characters to soldier on indefinitely, at slightly-reduced efficiency. You can swig the warm Gatorade of partial healing anytime, but the ice-cold spring water of overnight or clerical healing are luxuries not to be squandered.

The numbers could be tweaked depending on how serious you want injury to be. You could change the Soldier On threshold to be 50% or 75%. Ask this question: “At what stage of Hit Points depletion should we stop adventuring and go home?” and set the Soldier On threshold to a tiny bit above that.

A year between levels

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Last week I suggested that in-game time match real time. If your D&D campaign lasts a real year, your characters grow one year older. You could also try the opposite approach: Leveling up always takes a year.

This is good for the type of game where earning a level is a real achievement. As part of the leveling-up process, the players describe how they spent their year. Have them describe exactly how they got their level-up perks: where did they learn their feats and spells? Did the PCs travel the world, or work as guards? The Pendragon RPG incorporates this idea into its “winter phase”, and you could certainly use some Pendragon-inspired charts to find out what happened to your family, friends and lands over the course of the year. This would also be a good time to roll on the investments and business charts from Lamentations of the Flame Princess or the ACKS domain charts. In general, the intersession can be a celebration of the role of logistics in D&D.

The DM can advance the gameworld’s story between levels. At this pace, this type of campaign is much more likely to experience wars, royal succession, and other big events. Furthermore, characters can build castles, found guilds, start families, and otherwise impose their wills upon the world. In a high-speed game, where you go from level 1 to 20 in a month, you don’t have time for such things.

In such a game, your character actually ages significantly. Over the course of 20 levels, a 20-year old youth becomes a 40-year-old veteran. Racial age categories are not meaningless fluff. If you decide to start the game as an aged human wizard, magical aging and elixirs of youth might actually be relevant for once.

how’s this for d&d timekeeping: it’s always now!

Monday, January 28th, 2013

I’m a logistics-light DM, so I never tracked time. Before the endless 5e playtest, back when I occasionally ran actual campaigns, I’d sometimes have the game weather match the real weather, and that was about it. I think that’s how a lot of DMs play, and I actually think it’s not a bad system.

I have some ideas for pushing this non-system a little farther. Some of the ideas are sillier than others. I’m not sure if I’d always want to play this way, but it’s worth an experiment – next time I run a campaign.

What year and month is it in D&D? It’s always now. For instance, in real life, it’s January ’13. If I started a D&D adventure right now, it’d be set in January ’13. Maybe not 2013, but the thirteenth year in some century.

What century is it? That’s determined by the edition you’re playing. If you’re playing Fourth Edition, it’s January 413 – the thirteenth year of the Fourth Age. If you play First Edition, it’s the year 113. In OD&D, it’s plain old Year 13. This calendar system will work for the next eighty-seven real years, by which time we’ll all be dead.

Tweaks: If you play 3.5, maybe it’s the year 363: 350 + 13. Pathfinder game: 375 + 13. If you’re playing 13th Age, it’s the year 1313. Auspicious!

How time passes: Generally, the fantasy-world date keeps up with the real date. If two weeks pass between game sessions, two weeks pass in the game world. Exceptions: a single day’s adventure might take multiple sessions, or the players might take a five-day boat trip during a session. In this case, fantasy and real time get out of sync. However, between sessions, the fantasy date advances to the current date.

the four-hour work week
Reading 2e books, I discovered that the “adventure” and the game session used to be virtually synonymous. Nowadays, we think of session-based mechanics as strictly indie-game territory. Interestingly, in the “it’s always now” system, you can tie renewable resources to the session. If you play in a weekly D&D game, you can have hit points and spells fully recharge every in-game week. Thus, you can’t rest and recharge multiple times in a single game session. The five-minute workday is gone.

Sometimes, beat-up characters do need rest. I’d say that the players can always rest overnight during the course of a game session, recovering most of their hit points and a few spells. Complete rest, though, requires a week of off-time – for the players AND characters.

Another obstacle to the “it’s always now” method is that you can’t easily hand-wave two weeks of travel. You’ll want to adjust your hex-crawl parameters so that a week of wilderness travel frequently takes at least a session.

A bonus of using today’s date: My DMing practice is that, when the PCs enter a village and ask what’s going on, there’s equal chances of 1) business as usual, 2) supernatural crisis, or 3) a festival. Using the real date helps you schedule real-holiday-appropriate festivals (and supernatural crises, for Halloween). Festivals offer lots of opportunities for silly competitions and quests. I’ve had PCs win ice-sculpture contests at the Ice Festival, compete in pumpkin-throwing and pie-eating contests at the Pumpkin Fair, and look for lost May Queens at the spring holiday.

Another bonus: you can use the real world as your weather generator. If your players come in tracking snow on your floor, you can throw a blizzard into the adventure. Note: This doesn’t work for people who live in California. Those characters, like their players, live in a typical D&D campaign: an unrealistically clement fairyland.

confirming crits

Friday, November 30th, 2012

One of the first D&D houserules I encountered was the “crit to kill” rule: if you roll a natural 20 on an attack, roll another d20. On a second 20, the guy dies.

In Jon Peterson’s Playing at the World, I found a reference to a 1975 ancestor of that houserule, published in 1975 by Gary Switzer, the guy who wrote the first version of the Thief class. Peterson says, “On each melee swing, the attacker rolls an additional d20, which if it scores a ‘0’ (bearing in mind that early d20s had two 0’s), results in a critical. It is the main attack die which determines whether this is a critical hit or a trip—if the attack roll succeeds, then a hit has occurred, otherwise it is a trip.”

That extra die roll never made it into D&D canon, but 3e introduced the idea of “confirming crits:” rolling to see if your natural 20 was really a crit or not. (I think it introduced it. As I’ve mentioned before, my weakness is 2nd edition rules.)

I don’t like any of these rules very much in actual play, but not for game balance reasons. Sure, an insta-kill on 1 in 400 attacks adds wackiness and mitigates against PC survivability, and confirming crits only helps in bizarre corner cases where goblins crit on 100% of hits against dragons. The reason I don’t like them, though, is because they add anticlimax rolls.

In the “crit to kill” variant: You crit! Roll another d20. On a 1-19: Oh well, at least I got a crit. With the confirming a crit rule: I rolled a 20, but failed on the confirmation roll! Oh well, my crit didn’t happen.

4e’s solution was to have a crit always do max damage, and then throw some extra damage dice into the mix. That was not a bad solution: the extra dice always felt like bonus damage, even if you rolled poorly.

I COULD imagine bringing back the “crit to kill” rule in a modified form.

Recently, I’ve experimented with rolling d20s (and even d100s!) for special-effect damage. It’s fun! In my proposed variant, when you roll a crit, you don’t double or max your damage; you throw in a d20 along with all your other damage dice. If that die rolls a 20, you insta-kill. Otherwise, it just adds its damage to your hit (an average of 10 extra damage).

If the 1-in-400 chance of an insta-kill is too silly for you, you could instead make it an exploding d20 roll: on a crit-die roll of 20, you add 20 damage and roll again. Against all but high-level opponents, it will come to the same thing. However, this tweak gives 20th-level fighters some protection against 400 goblin archers.

5e skills suggestion

Monday, November 26th, 2012

In my Mearls D&D game in the sidebar, I’ve been ignoring skills: when someone calls for a Bluff check, I simply make a Charisma check. Since I started playtesting 5e, this has become my favorite way to run a D&D game: the +1 to +4 attribute bonus lends enough weight to a roll without an additional skill bonus.

However, if people want a skill system, you have to have skill bonuses.

4e gave you a +5 bonus for being trained in a skill. +5! If you gave first-level characters +5 swords, that would make a mockery of the combat system. Similarly, a +5 bonus to skills makes a mockery of the skill system.

5e’s skill bonus is +3, which is much more palatable. Still, I’d reduce it another step.

Here are the basic details about the current version of the 5e skill system:
1) +3 for being trained in a skill
2) If you get training in the same skill from two different sources, you choose a different skill. Thus, if a rogue gets Stealth from his class and his background, he gets Stealth and a random skill of his choice.
3) Every even level, you get +1 to a trained skill of your choice.

Here’s my proposed tweak:

1) +2 for being trained in a skill
2) If you get trained in a skill which you already possess, your bonus goes up one point. Thus, a rogue who gets Stealth from his class and background has a +3 Stealth bonus instead of +2.
3) Every even level, you can train a new skill of your choice. That means you can either train a new skill, at +2, or enjoy the fruits of point 2) and increase a skill’s bonus by one point.
4) What the heck, let’s say you can spend your skill point to learn a new language. (How does a language compare to +1 in your favorite skill? Not sure.)

It’s a tiny tweak, but it deflates runaway skill bonuses a tiny bit; allows a mechanism for learning new skills and languages; and provides for a synergy bonus for a focused class/background.

here’s a two weapon fighting implementation

Monday, November 19th, 2012

The easiest way to balance two-weapon fighting is to model it on shield use: in other words, give it an almost negligible effect. Still, it should call enough attention to itself that it doesn’t totally disappear on the character sheet.

Here’s an implementation I just thought of:

You can dual-wield if you have a light weapon in your off hand. You make one attack roll.


You get a +1 to attack.


On a hit, you hit with your main-hand weapon if you rolled an even number, and with your offhand weapon if you rolled an odd number.


Let’s leave two-weapon fighting out of the analysis for a minute. Shield vs. two-handed weapon is an interesting trade-off: for (in most editions) +1 AC, you lose 2+ points of damage (going from a d12 to a d8 weapon; possible decrease in strength bonus). It’s really hard to analyze this balance, which changes from edition to edition and from low to high level. But let’s say that this is reasonably balanced, with maybe a slight advantage for the two-handed weapon.

Now let’s throw accuracy into the mix. How does +1 to-hit compare to +1 AC? They’re pretty symmetrical, but I’d say to-hit is a little better. A fighter makes an attack roll nearly every turn, but doesn’t use AC every turn: some enemies use attacks that target other defenses/saving throws.

With my two-weapon implementation, a character trades the +1 AC of a shield for +1 to hit, and pays a small cost in damage to balance it out. With a 50% chance of using your offhand weapon, you’re likely to do 4 damage (average of shortsword and longsword) instead of a shield-user’s 4.5 damage (with a longsword). That cost goes up if you have, say, a +2 longsword in one hand and an ordinary shortsword in the other.

With these three attack styles, you now have a pretty straight tradeoff between the three pieces of D&D combat: damage bonus (2H), AC bonus (shield use), and attack bonus (2WF).

Another fun application of this two-weapon-fighting system: it buffs unarmed fighting. Nearly all boxers fight with both fists, so they get +1 to hit. Based on the die roll, they’ll throw a left hook or a right cross, which, in most cases, won’t matter since both do the same amount of damage.

new rules for building castles

Monday, November 5th, 2012

I’ve had a few thoughts about the logistics of PCs building strongholds. There are existing rules for pricing out castlebuilding: OD&D and 1e have their own in the core rules, 2e and 3e have splatbooks, and ACKS has a pretty well-thought-out system. I don’t want to re-invent any of these rules. Instead, I have a few logistical tweaks I think could be added to any of them (to make castle building even more complicated).

Casting a Castle

According to the 1e DMG, it takes 2 to 6 years to build a castle. That means that if I began a citadel in 2006 (at the same time as the launch of Twitter, say) it might just be finished now. Some campaigns have five-year chunks of downtime and some don’t: I thought it would be cool if characters in more high-speed campaigns also had a way to build castles. On the other hand, the various castle-building costs shouldn’t be circumvented.

Here’s a spell/ritual to speed up building:

Unseen Builders (level 3 wizard spell/ritual)

This spell creates a host of unseen servants, each of which acts as a laborer. By using this spell, a wizard can condense months of construction into mere days.

The cost of this spell, in magical components, is exactly the same as the total cost of building the structure without magic, including the cost of materials and human laborers.

The casting time of the spell is 1/30th of the time it would normally take to build the structure (one day per month). During the multi-day casting of this spell, the wizard works twelve hours a day, can eat and sleep, but can cast no other spells.

Extra expenses:

-An architect must be hired to design the building. If the building is to be exceptional, some master craftsmen and artists must be hired as well.
-The unseen laborers can range as far as 1 mile away from the building site, which usually allows them to fell trees, quarry local stone, and mine a small amount of iron. Any more exotic materials must be gathered at extra expense.
-Casting this spell is extremely taxing. NPC wizards usually charge an additional 10% to 20% of the cost of the building as their fee.

Alternate Sources of Stone

Last week I wrote about the many ancient ruins that clutter the D&D landscape. According to The Medieval Machine, by Jean Gimpel, medieval builders often found it cheaper to tear down existing buildings rather than quarry new stones. Therefore, PCs might end up re-purposing ancient structures, potentially with mystic side-effects. You could make up a chart like this one to determine the closest source of stone:

Is there an alternate source of stone? (roll d20)
1 a ruined giants’ castle: cost of building is increased by 25% but every structure has 50% more hit points or other defensive advantages than normal.
2 A ruin of a high-magic empire: cost of building is reduced by 20%, and the final building is provided with ever-burning torches, doors that open at a password, and other conveniences.
3 Ruin of a recent empire: cost of building is reduced by 20%.
4 Holy construction of the ancient gods: if you dare to mine it for stone, the final building is shining white and has 2x normal HP. However, during construction, each worker (or Unseen Builder wizard) will be targeted once by a curse, typically a 10d6 lightning bolt (save for no damage). This is likely to cause an extremely high casualty rate, low morale, delays, 3x or more the normal building costs.
5 demonic ruin: if you dare to mine it for stone, the final building will be black and jagged, covered with crawling purple runes, and will fire invisible bolts against all attackers as if its walls were fully garrisoned with archers. However, after every 100 nights spent in the building, each inhabitant must make a saving throw or accumulate one neurosis, phobia, or obsession. After 3 such failed saving throws, the inhabitant will go completely mad.
6 Elven ruin: cost of building is reduced by 20% and everyone compliments you on how beautiful it turned out.
7 Ruin from the empire of mad archmages: Stone is mined from a Gygaxian death trap. Cost of building is increased by 10%; 5% of the workers are killed by traps or monsters; but mechanical trap construction costs 10% of normal, and you may catch three random monsters for the defense of your structure.
8 Bizarre ruin: structures are made of lava or skulls or something. Your architect must make an Intelligence check. On a failure, the architect cannot work with this material. On a success, the final structure gains some unique ability.
9: The local quarry stone is very hard: +10% to building cost and to HP of all structures.
10: The local quarry stone is soft: either spend +10% building cost on imported stone or the final building has -10% hit points.
9-18: The closest source of stone is a regular quarry. No effect on prices.
19-20: Choice of several ruins or quarries nearby. Roll d10 on this chart twice.

cantrips for PHB2 classes

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

A few weeks ago I posted rules for cantrips for all the 4e Players Handbook classes: I thought that every class should get the benefit of out-of-combat abilities that a) defined the class and b) spurred creativity.

Today I’ll do the same thing for the classes from the Player’s Handbook 2.

The PHB 2 is a challenge: half of its classes are old favorites with well-established conceptual niches (bard, barbarian, druid, and sorcerer), and half are experiments whose flavor provides varying levels of inspiration (invoker, shaman, avenger, and warden.) Some of the newer classes are difficult to design for because I don’t have an intuitive feeling about their out-of-combat activities. In some cases, I made up new flavor.

AVENGER: Avengers are scary dudes. Their deal is that they threaten people. Before they kill you, they let you know that they are GOING to kill you. The Oath of Enmity is a very flavorful class feature: all avenger cantrips need to do is tie some noncombat mechanics to the Oath of Enmity.

Reminder of Enmity: Just because you’ve survived a combat with an avenger doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Anyone who was ever subject to an Avenger’s Oath of Enmity, in combat or out, is subject to frequent reminders of the fact.

An Avenger may send a vision to anyone who was once subject to the Oath of Enmity. The vision is typically of a) the avenger, b) a bloody weapon, or c) the avenger killing the subject with a bloody weapon. If the subject is sleeping, the vision will be woven into a dream. Each day, the Avenger may send one vision per level, but no more than one per day to each subject.

BARBARIAN: People do not play barbarians because they want cantrips. They play a barbarian because they want to smash things. So I’ll stick to basics.

I Hit It With My Axe: In one action, an armed barbarian can automatically destroy any inanimate object that another character might destroy in a minute. This includes almost all furniture, wooden doors, art, and stone walls less than 6 inches thick. If a barbarian destroys a large item, its square becomes difficult terrain. This action is extraordinarily loud.

I Hit Them With My Axe In one action, a barbarian destroys any number of fragile items within weapon reach. This action is also extraordinarily loud.

BARD: Historically, why have people wanted to play bards? It’s not because of how awesome they are in combat. It’s because they sing and annoy everybody. Bards are all about performance, and while they have a few music-related attack powers, it is really out of combat that they get to fulfill the promise of their class.

Perform: As a standard action, the bard plays an instrument or sings. Until the end of the bard’s next turn, all willing listeners enjoy themselves. (There are no game statistics behind this, but NPCs tend to seek out enjoyment unless there is a reason not to.) During the performance, willing listeners suffer a -2 to perception checks.

Compose: The bard writes a song and Performs it for at least a dozen strangers. The song becomes a well-known standard in the nearest city. (At bard level 11, the song is known country-wide, and at level 21, continent-wide.) People tend to believe the message of the song unless they have a reason not to. Be careful with the slander – if anyone is offended by the song, they’ll be able to get a description of the original performer.

DRUID: The druid schtick is a defender of the wilderness. In my experience, druid players often want to behave like eco-terrorists, despite the fact that there is no real need to protect wilderness in a medieval or points-of-light setting.

Grow: As a standard action, the druid may make small plants spring up in an adjacent square. The druid may make a square difficult terrain, or cause climbable ivy to appear on a wall. Furthermore, by concentrating, a druid can cause ivy and roots to do 1 HP damage per minute to adjacent stone structures. The druid cannot grow cultivable plants like grain, and cannot grow plants in barren areas where they would not normally grow.

Command Animals: As a minor action, a druid can command a small natural creature, like a mouse or bird, in a burst 5, to do a simple task. Keeping the animal’s attention on the task requires a sustain minor. The animal cannot communicate with the druid except with very simple sign language, conveying “finished”, “impossible,” “I’m scared and need a pep talk” and similar messages.

INVOKER: The Invoker description suggests that Invokers know some purer form of divine magic than clerics do. Their cantrips should feel like sparks from the living steel of Creation itself. Invokers should also be able to do things that make clerics jealous.

Word of Creation: The gods can alter reality with a single word. Invokers have a shred of that power.

The Invoker can utter the name of a nonliving object small enough to be held or worn. It will appear in the character’s possession. Sustain minor. It disappears when the invoker speaks any other word at all (or casts a spell). The object can be up to 5 feet in its largest dimension (at level 11 it can be up to 10 feet; at level 21, 20 feet). The DM should be careful to make sure that the character doesn’t speak while the object is sustained, or the object will vanish. The Invoker can’t be too specific in his or her invocation: he or she can only utter a single noun, not describe an object. However, the DM should generally honor the player’s intent and not try to subvert the cantrip with wilful misinterpretation.

I’m curious if this cantrip is too powerful: I’d like to see it in play. People don’t play invokers that often, though, so I might never get to playtest it.

SHAMAN: Out of combat, the shaman schtick is that they talk to spirits. In combat, the shaman is the guy who summons a giant bear to eat enemies. The giant-bear part generally overshadows the talks-to-spirits part, which is a shame because there is room in the D&D world for a shaman who is attuned to the messages of the spirit world. No NPC wilderness tribe should be without one. I tried to come up with cantrips that would let NPC shamen do the things you’d expect them to do: mutter to invisible creatures, pronounce taboos, and give mystical, yet maddengly nonspecific, guidance to PCs.

Commune with Spirits: As a standard action, the shaman talks to the weak spirits in the area. They can unerringly answer any of the following questions:
-What is the last creature or group to have passed, and what did they do? Spirits have no sense of time, and no sense of of the purpose behind any activity.
-Is there currently anything that disrupts the natural order around, and in what direction? Aberrant, undead, and extraplanar creatures disrupt the natural order. A town doesn’t necessarily disrupt the natural order, but a sanctified temple does, because it is blessed with astral energy. A cleric doesnt, but a zone from a clerical spell does. Most arcane magic does not, but eladrin teleportation might, because it connects the world with the feywild. Spirits do not distinguish between good and evil, but they do give an indication of the strength of the disruption.
-How may I end a magical effect? As a healer in touch with the spirit realm, the shaman can gain unique knowledge about ending curses and other magical effects. Any temporary or permanent magical effect may be banished, even those associated with magic items, curses, and magical diseases. The DM should come up with an appropriate rite to end the effect. To banish a magical zone in combat, it might take a round or two of ritual dancing and the expenditure of some ritual ingredients. To end a magical curse or destroy a magic object, it might require a quest of varying difficulty. The way to accomplish the quest might be clear or unclear (ranging from “fetch mountain moss to put on the wound” to “sacrifice 50 cattle” to “fly through a keyhole at the western corner of the world”.)

Materialize: The shaman makes a local spirit visible to all, in glowing form, with the luminosity of a candle. Sustain minor. The shaman can also make invisible or ethereal monsters visible to all.

SORCERER: A sorcerer is like a wizard who wields raw, barely contained magic. I thought it would be fun to use the same cantrips as wizards, but in undisciplined, destructive forms.

The player is in control of the cantrip. It’s up to the player if the character is in control too; the cantrip’s effects might be latent expressions of the sorcerer’s unconscious power.

Ghost Scream: Like Ghost Sound, but it can only produce the kinds of unsettling noises that would freak you out in the dark.

Lightning Flash:
Like the Light cantrip but it provides light in irregular bursts of lightning (accompanied by thunder if the player wishes). It provides strobe light in an 8 square radius. Everyone in strobe light has partial concealment (-2 to attacks), and Hide attempts may be made.

Mage Slap: Someone feels a pinch, slap, or tug from an unseen hand.

Polterdigitation: Something fragile is destroyed in a flashy way. Glass might shatter, or papers might be thrown around the room. Light objects might be thrown harmlessly. An object might be stained with blood. Special: three effects may happen per turn.

WARDEN: The warden is very difficult for me to get a handle on. As far as I can tell, a warden is like a druid who fights with a melee weapon: or maybe more like a magical ranger. (Of course, in some editions, rangers can already cast spells.) There’s not enough of a niche for me to hang much conceptual baggage on. I decided to do my best to add some class flavor with the Sentry Tree power.

Sentry Tree: As a standard action, the warden turns into a tree (it’s the same tree each time). This can only be done in an environment where trees may grow. It takes a standard action to change back. As a tree, the warden is able to see in all directions, and 6 hours as a tree counts as an extended rest. As wardens get older, they often spend more and more time as a tree, and they age as a tree ages; many old oaks and willows are wardens of ancient days who might, in times of need, return to their original forms. (If you want, you can add 1-100 years to your character’s starting age).

The last warden cantrip is interesting mainly in that I wrote it on a laptop on which the F key didn’t work, and it is thus extremely hard to read.

eed: cause any nurturing plant to put orth ruit. the ood lasts or ive minutes. I eaten in that time, the ruit will provide sustenance or the ull day.

the trapmonkey cleric: basing perception checks on wisdom

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

5e says that it is going to make attributes more important than skills: if you want to open a door, you roll your Strength. If you want to notice something, you roll your Wisdom.

This really highlights the fact that Perception has been a problem since early D&D, when it was briefly its own attribute. That’s not a great solution, but the 3e+ solution, making it a skill based on Wisdom, is not great either. It’s strange when the cleric is the best member of the party for finding secret doors and noticing ambushes.

This issue was less central in 3e and 4e, where skill points and training bonuses could be used to shore up the Wisdom shortcomings of alert rogues and rangers. But in a system where perception checks are made by a more-or-less unmodified use of your Wisdom stat, we’ll find ourselves in a world where clerics and paladins are scouting ahead of the party to look for traps.

To decide how to deal with perception, I think we should think about what classes we expect to make difficult Perception checks. I think that the best watchmen in the party should be rogues, with their trap sense; rangers, with their keen eyes; and barbarians, with their feral alertness. Clerics should be solidly middle-of-the-pack.

Based on this class-down design, it actually makes sense for perception skills to be folded under the Dexterity attribute. In most editions, rogues and rangers usually have high dexterity. Barbarians can sometimes get away without high dexterity, but they shouldn’t: warriors who wear only loincloths had better be quick.

It’s a bit of a conceptual stretch to jam sharp ears and keen eyes under Dexterity. It might help to rename “perception” to something like “alertness” or “quick wits” that does a better job of implying speed and subtlety.

Moving perception-based skills to Dexterity doesn’t really solve the base problem, which is that perception doesn’t really go with any of the six attributes. It does, however, better model people’s expectations about what characters are good at what.

The other solution? Go OD&D. Get rid of Perception checks altogether. If people are searching a room, ask them where they are searching. If they listen at doors, or try to ambush enemies, give everyone a static 33% chance of success (maybe more if they’re an elf). At least this approach dethrones the hyper-vigilant cleric.