Naturally, as soon as I put up my review of the UA for Fighters, a helpful soul pointed out that Arcane Archer had already been revisited in a separate Unearthed Arcana.

Let’s take a quick scan. Recall that some of my observations (yeah, complaints, maybe) were that some of the options were devastating, almost “I win” buttons. Others were that the “curtains didn’t match the drapes” where some of the fluff and mechanics were concerned.

Arcane Archer Redux

So, the fluff text about the ancient elven method is still there. You know, not everything archery and magical has to come from elves. I don’t know why this is bugging me more and more recently. Guess it’s a bit of Peter Jackson’s “Just Damned Better than You” syndrome.

So, first thing, they’ve put in a table of abilities, listing the 3, 3, 7, 10, 15, 18 progression a bit. There’s still no explicit 10th level boost, other than yet one more choice for Arcane shot. Pity. That was a notable gap, and some of the arcane shots are powerful enough that a two-tiered structure of shots or shot capabilities would have been conceivable.

You still get all three abilities that were there in the old version at 3rd level: magic arrow, arcane shot (pick two options), and archer’s lore. Continue reading “Arcane Archer Revisited”

I love fighters. Paladins too, but I love fighters. Even when magic and other superpowers are available, I tend to play characters whose main mode of interaction with bad guys is to beat the bejeezus out of them. Partly this is a quirk of mine: when it comes time to sit down and game, I’m usually looking for  a way to unwind, and delving into “what spells or powers do I have now?” isn’t as fun for me as clever ways to do more direct action. When I played “Commander Samurai,” who usually just went by the title “The Commander,” in the GURPS Aeon Campaign, I mostly played him as Batman – ghosting into the situation with a ridiculously high Stealth skill, attacking with fists, guns, or telekinetically-enhanced versions of both, and then vanishing again. He had other powers; we eventually rewrote him because I didn’t use them.

Anyway: to return. I loves me some fighters. When I reposted my take on the Samurai from a year or two ago, a helpful poster aimed me at an Unearthed Arcana dedicated to the topic, specifically the samurai. I read through it, and had thoughts.

Fighter Archetypes

In 5e, what you’re really adding isn’t different character classes in most cases (this is good), but instead adding Fighter Archetypes – which basically means you’re adding thematically unified sets of powers that show up (for the fighter) at different levels. For fighter, you get Martial Archetype boosts at 3rd level (on selection), and then 7th, 10th, 15th, and 18th.

The 3rd level abilities usually define the archetype. The rest are power-ups.

The four new archetypes presented are the Arcane Archer, the Knight, the Samurai, and the Sharpshooter. Continue reading “Review – Unearthed Arcana: Fighter”

I’ll be at GenCon this year, which means all of Gaming Ballistic, LLC will be in attendance. That second one sounds much more impressive.

My fate was sealed when I pledged to the Dungeon Fantasy RPG Kickstarter, and opted into the Saturday 1-5pm session with Sean Punch. Doubly sealed when I decided I’d try and go there under the auspices of the Indie Game Design Network, as both an exhibitor and table fiend.

But . . . that meant I could take the time to do a bit of hands-on demonstration, too.

Grappling Smackdown

From 10am to noon on both Friday and Saturday, I’ll be running a two-hour one-shot session designed to show off how Dungeon Grappling plays at the table.

Right now, each game will be using Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition rules. It isn’t PvP – it will be a normal romp through a limited dungeon, but designed to highlight the grappling rules as modified by Dungeon Grappling.

What does that mean?

It means that a gaggle of kobolds might score enough control points to worry a high level fighter. It means a web spell does control damage. And it means that a Barbarian or Monk got real interesting when optimized around the wrestling skills.

Grappling is Combat

Grappling never really gets the credit it should, because folks usually insist on invoking complicated or non-optimal subsystems to resolve it. Dungeon Grappling is both new and old, in a way that will become instantly apparent when you play.

Come find out what a smooth grappling system can do for a game. Sign up as follows:

Friday 10am to noon

Saturday 10am to noon

Over on his blog, Brandon Stoddard offers up an in-depth analysis, from his perspective, of a giant list of feats in the Fifth Edition rules. He might have thrown in some Unearthed Arcana in there too.

You might read his analysis and conclude he’s totally off his rocker. You might agree with every point. Regardless, he makes his case and gives you the reasons he’s saying what he’s saying, so you can fight it out with tact and eloquence.

I really grooved on reading his stuff, so I’m going to comment on his stuff, but I’m also going to give some insight into the Feats in Dragon Heresy, and see if they pass muster based on what he’s noted, in a follow-on post. Some may, some may not. I was inspired heavily by Fifth Edition Feats by Total Party Kill games, though I made changes as required and needed for Dragon Heresy. The single feat in SRD5.1 means you have to start somewhere. Continue reading “Feat Design and Dragon Heresy”

It’s Monster Monday again, and today I give you trolls.

They’re a classic part of norse mythology and legend, and have been tweaked a bit to fit with the Dragon Heresy cosmology. Four sub-types are presented, based on both the SRD and my team’s reading of the legends themselves. There’s a troll here for every occasion!

Troll

Trolls are large and physically powerful fae, strong and hard to hurt. They have a stocky, muscular build, large powerful thick-fingered hands with rough claws, and short legs. Their appearance varies considerably, but they usually have pointed ears, a large nose, thick callused skin, sharp fangs or tusks, horns on their heads, shaggy hair, or animal-like tails.

Common in the mountains and deep forests, trolls often make the entrance to their faerie homes among rock outcrops, standing stones, inside caves, or under bridges.

Trolls are dangerous, with a proclivity for kidnapping and eating people, thieving, and raiding homesteads. They shun sunlight, and mostly come out when it is twilight or overcast. Alfar or Winterfae often use them as guards or warriors, but trolls are more solitary and independent than goblins: they are willful and hard to control.

Mountain Troll. These trolls are magical beings and accomplished shapeshifters. The least hostile of the trolls, they may talk rather than fight if the mood suits them. Some adventurous souls have even joined them for dinner without becoming dinner themselves! They are still perilous, prone to violence and exhibiting disturbing anthropophagous tendencies, and their potent magics and cunning only increase the hazard.

Thurs. These are dull-witted brutes. Although very violent, they can often be tricked by the quick thinking. They dress in rude furs and usually carry large clubs. Many will happily serve powerful masters in exchange for regular food, a comfortable place to sleep, and better equipment.

Stothtroll. A breed of fae that has been twisted into something horrible by the strange magics of the great rifts of Tanalor. Their minds were broken into ravenous, unreasoning monsters yet still possessed of near-human cunning. Meanwhile their bodies were fortified and given unnatural endurance, to the point that their wounds twist and heal even as you watch.

Grendelkin. None too bright, these monstrous trolls are remarkably resistant to weapons. They can be found stalking misty marshes and dark fens, skulking among the dark pools and venturing out at night to inflict carnage on nearby peaceful people. Continue reading “Monster Monday: Troll”

As I was writing about the keyed monster list, I had cause to generate a random dungeon as an example using the generator over at donjon. The example that popped out was fine . . . but I did notice that nearly all of the fun threats in that particular output were from random encounters – the Wandering Monster table was far more interesting challenge-wise than the encounters that were in place.

Perhaps that makes sense in some cases, but it got me thinking about the why of wandering monsters. Why might monsters wander, and what kinds of wandering are more likely to provoke violent encounters?

I wonder why I wander

Brainstorming a bit:

  • Travel from place to place – migration, resettlement
  • Hunting for food
  • Patrolling territory that has already been established
  • Scouting new territory for home, food, mates, or resources
  • Scouting new territory for fun
  • Looking for an encounter for a specific purpose – rite of passage, hunting for sport rather than food
  • War party, genocidal or punitive expedition
  • Investigating strange goings on (loud noises, sounds of a struggle, cries of a wounded creature)

I’m sure there are others.

One interesting divide here is that some of these are more appropriate for sapient beings than sentient ones.

A tiger will set up a territory. It will patrol that territory on very regular intervals. It will hunt for food within that territory, and within reason, it will defend the territory from incursion. It uses spray, urine, feces, and scratch markings to not only signal the territory, but to purposefully signal its patrol pattern. So it’s likely to share territory at the borders, so long as other animals don’t encroach during patrol hours, so to speak.

A band of traditional orcs, who are aggressive, warlike, and sapient, may be wandering from place to place, and if they are migrating, they will do it in very large numbers – a clan or tribe (thinking on it, regular migrations will frequently be in force). They may engage in many of the listed activities, and can be counted on doing so with (relatively speaking) great creativity. Their patrols may be more random and less signaled. They may hunt for sport as well as for food.

In a dungeon environment, or any sort of encounter really, it may help the GM or encounter designer pondering a wandering monster or chance encounter table to consider the kinds of encounters that might be had. Continue reading “Purposeful Wandering Monsters”

Wodensday Wonderings is a new feature where I will discuss and comment on things that have sparked my interest of late. Sometimes (like today) it’ll be an animated discussion over mapped vs. mapless combat. Sometimes it might be a game design discussion. Or thoughts about why and why not of firearms and the like in fantasy gaming (to pick on a heated topic I saw on Facebook). More food for thought than “folks should do this,” this is my weekly free association column, so to speak. With that:

I was reading a Google+ post about using mapless/gridless combat, and the poster and commenters were musing about what was basically the tendency of players to precisely place their area effect spells for maximum effect. I’ve seen this too in GURPS games with both spells and grenades.

A quick fix – Random Location

It adds a die roll or three, but there’s an easy way to handle it. Assign scatter to every area effect spell. You can use either d6s or d8s. Continue reading “Spell Targeting – Margin of Error (5e, GURPS, others)”

It has literally been one month since any sort of “real” content post on Gaming Ballistic. That ain’t right.

There are good reasons – or they seemed so at the time – but still, there has to be more to the blog than an occasional play report and a “work was done” update about the two RPG projects that are eating my time and some of my creative energy.

Make a List: Bad Guy Rosters

Starting small, though: I endorse fully Peter’s notion of Bad Guy Rosters from his post a few days ago.

I’ve used these myself, and I find there are two ways of doing them that just rock on toast.

The first is the simple spreadsheet list, but organized in such a way that the order has meaning. In short, if you’re mucking about in a room killin’ monsters and takin’ their stuff, then you’re probably making noise. Lots of it. The blood-curdling shriek of a fallen hobgoblin. The whoosh of air as it escapes from lungs the size of forge bellows as an ogre’s throat opens the wrong way. The dull but powerful woomph of a detonating fireball.

All of these should instantly alert neighbors that fouble is a troot. At least one “nearest neighbor” should go on high alert, and if these dwellers have any sort of communications system (and I don’t mean cell phones, though magical equivalents are great – I mean runners and messengers) the entire dungeon will soon be on alert.

The key information in a bad guy roster is pretty obvious: what’s in a room, notable things in the environment that must be noted, distance to next rooms, and nearest-neighbor connections.

The easiest way to do this will be with an example. Continue reading “Benefits of a Keyed Monster List”

Setup

I got a Steam chat from someone with whom I regular interact over that channel. He was wondering out loud if Dungeon Grappling includes rules for kicking.

My first response was “that’s just an unarmed strike; DnD doesn’t do that level of specificity.” Fine, if unsatisfying.

Then he noted that what he really wanted to get a feel for, having been playing through Storm King’s Thunder, is why not have rules for a Storm Giant knocking a halfling across the battlefield like a ping-pong ball?

Ah! Well, yes. Dungeon Grappling does have rules for Flinging and Shoving, where you grapple someone and then you can use the rules to shove or fling them a certain distance.

Incidental Projectile

That got me thinking, though. There are of course rules for this in DnD, but not for incidental contact. You have to deliberately decide to shove your foe, which Dungeon Grappling extends to flinging.

But hrm and hrrrm, this is where game design rears its head. For whatever reason, the designers decided to make shoving a different mechanic than striking. One is a contest of Strength, the other a damage roll. There are reasons for this, of course, and those reasons are at the very least defensible.

But there’s a cost to this. An Ancient Red Dragon’s tail swipe does 2d8+10 damage from a Gargantuan creature. So 12-26 points. for a creature that might be the size and mass of a house. I’ve seen some pretty large imaginings of these guys, but even without, the basic size for a Gargantuan creature is 20′ x 20′ (or larger). So the size of a small two-car garage or so.

It would be interesting to relate size and damage to knockback power, though, so it’d be possible to have the Cave Troll knocking hobbits about.

This would mean finding a scale of damage that maps well to knockback, and a sensible mapping of such. Continue reading “The Kick is GOOD! (Casual knockback in DnD games)”

I was contemplating a rules tweak for Dungeon Grappling, and a backer made a comment that seemed worthy of further consideration, and so I had cause to wonder what reactions could be used for in Fifth Edition.

Ian Borchardt had some time on his hands, so he says, and compiled this list. I asked for permission to repost, and he gave it. Since then, Axel Castilla compiled the list into a downloadable document.

GENERAL

If you perform the Ready action you can prepare any action as a reaction. However you must specify a specific trigger for your reaction and can only take one reaction in a round. When the trigger event happens you can act immediately (or you can ignore the trigger). If casting a spell as a reaction, then the spell must have a casting time of 1 action and you must maintain Concentration until you react.

Remember only 1 reaction a round.

EVERYONE

  • Everyone has a trigger of “if foe physically moves out of reach” for an opportunity attack.
  • A mounted combatant has the trigger “if mount falls prone” to dismount and land on their feat automatically. [Which is very unrealistic if you ask me… -IB]

CLASS SPECIFIC

Continue reading “Uses for a Reaction in Fifth Edition”