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”

Today is thanksgiving in the USA, so naturally someone asked about a Dire Turkey.

Peter Dell’Orto and I had ridiculous fun writing “Dire and Terrible Creatures” for GURPS, and it occurred to me that I could apply the same kind of thing to SRD5.1 pretty easily. So here’s a “switch” to apply to any kind of Dire Creature you want.

Dire Modifications

To make a conventional animal into a Dire one, up-gun them as follows:

  • Size class increases by one (this will increase the HD type by one as well)
  • Add +10′ to speed for all motive types listed for the base animal
  • Add 3HD
  • If there are any AC bonuses from armor, double them[1].
  • Increase the creature’s stats:
    • +5 to STR, or enough STR to double the STR bonus, whichever is higher[2]
    • +3 to CON, or enough CON to double the CON bnus, whichever is higher
    • +1 to WIS or CHA, GM’s discretion

That should provide a fun challenge.

Notes

[1] Take the AC of the creature and subtract the DEX bonus. Anything left? That’s going to be the bonus from armor or tough hide. Double that. Going from Wolf (DEX +2, AC 13) to Dire Wolf (DEX +2) would double the +1 natural armor to +2, making the final AC 14.

[2] If the creature is DEX-based, which you will be able to tell because the attack bonus and damage types use the (usually higher) DEX bonus instead, don’t increase STR, boost DEX.

I know my blog has been filled with Kickstarter reports these days. It is, of course, rather important to me to make the best book I can, and in order to do that, I would need to bring in about $4,800, which means I’m roughly halfway there (though the project has funded and will be made regardless – each extra chunk of money just makes it more attractive).

In any case, a fun article that can be read tongue-in-cheek but really isn’t showed up on the Cirsova blog.

Called Parrying: I get it now, it goes over a point of potential misunderstanding in OSR rules – namely that once engaged in melee combat, two foes are “locked” there. Therefore, having a defensive option such as “parry,” which makes one harder to hit, is a synergistic move, because it allows your fellow combatants – archers, spellcasters, and backstabbers – to destroy the foe safely and quickly, while the low Armor Class, high Hit Point fighter keeps him occupied.

The only problem with these “parry” type options in D&D style games tends to be the very, very mild benefit that one gets. Fifth Edition does it perhaps the best by granting disadvantage if an option like this is taken – this option is Dodge, and unless the odds are already really good for your foe, or really bad, this decreases your chance to be hit by about 25%. That’s much better than a shield (10%) in this system, and in most systems that shield is only worth 5% (+1).

Note: I reflexively use ascending Armor Class in my writing, since I’ve been writing based on SRD5.1 for almost a year, and even when we played S&W, we used ascending AC.

But it got me thinking. How many defensive options exist in Dragon Heresy?  Continue reading “Defensive Options in Dragon Heresy”