We see action coming out of the manor as we start out. Ten spearmen, a couple of men-at-arms, and a few carts and wagons. We decide to anticipate them heading to Lervin, so we can set an ambush at the bridge (B) from Lervin to Phandalin – the route with the best road.

We guess correctly, and high-tail it first down the same road as they will take, but then cut cross-country to come at the bridge from the south.

We wanted to set a Rune of Boom on the bridge, triggering it when the bad guys are on the bridge, but the Glyph is not that easy to set up. We estimate it’ll only take 1-2 hours to get there for them, so we’re going to have to move it move it to get set up and prepared.

The good news is that we can probably move several times as fast to cover the roughly 2 miles from Highgarden to the bridge at Lervin. Even at 10 mph, that’s about 12-24 minutes. So we’ll have anything from abut 35 minutes to as long as 1 hour and 45min to get ready for them. Most likely is something like a bit more than an hour – just enough time to set up the Glyph of Explody Bits and then have a bit of time to wait for them to come.


We set up behind as much cover and concealment as possible, missile weapons at the ready. We figure if we can down the two knights first and foremost, the “host” will likely be ineffective even if we don’t destroy them all. 

The Glyph of Warding explodes in a 20′ radius, so we steer clear of that. Keyar Nailo sets up a very concealed trap (natural 20!) at the south end of the bridge. 

We set up . . . and wait. We decide anything fancy is not in the cards, and (potentially against my better judgement) fail to set up a classic L-shaped ambush. 

The small force approaches; the knights are riding to the east and west of the short column, with ten spearmen and a man-at arms.

They walk right into the spell trap. BOOM. The stone-plank bridge is on fire.

Sir Varius is up front, and he takes 23 points of damage, as he fails to save. The man-at-arms takes 9 HP; the seven spearmen each take 25 HP, wiping them all out.

We’re instantly down to a wounded knight, a less-wounded man-at-arms, three spearmen, and an unharmed Sir Colin. Keyar takes aim at Sir Colin; Mark at Sir Varius, and Aevin Steelhand shoots Sir Varius for 7 HP. Mark’s arrow ricochet’s off his armor (AC 18). Sir Colin is spared a similar impalement by his armor. Vognur whiffs as well.

Markbludiell continues his streak of poor initiative rolls, nearly at the bottom of the heap with an 11. The spearmen on the other side rock it with a 20, so they go first. we’ll see.

Aevin goes first, and shoots with advantage at Sir Varius, which also glances off the armor. Sir Varius snaps out of it, and charges at Markbludiell. His horse takes a tumble, and we hear the ugly snap of a broken leg as Varius hits the pit trap that Keyar set. He takes 10 HP from the fall; the horse is down, screaming.

Sir Varius is on the ground, and Vognur draws his sword and moves to the attack; Vognur has advantage due to his being prone.

The spearmen start to break and run, but Sir Colin strikes one down; the rest are well motivated, and charge the PCs. Sir Colin himself runs up next to Aevin, striking once for a crit, and missing a second attack. He hits Aevin for 23 HP!

Ouch.

Markbludiell casts Sacred Weapon, but misses Sir Colin with a sword attack anyway. The yeoman sergeant moves up and shoots Markbludiell with a crossbow, rolling 19 but bouncing off of his armor and shield.

Aevin invokes Second Wind to heal 1d10+4 HP, getting 9 HP back. He also does Action Surge for two attacks to Sir Colin, who was paralyzed by a spell in the prior round; Colin is hit twice for 27 HP of slashing damage. 

Sir Varius gets up (!) and attacks Vognur twice, hitting once for 16 HP. 

Vognur attacks Sir Varius, but misses. Keyar is up, and crits on Sir Colin, which we need, for 22 HP, and Sir Colin goes down. The horse goes into a frenzy and attacks Aevin, and +Rob Conley rolls another crit, doing 20 HP to Aevin. 

Even the f**king horse rolls 20s. And an attempt to use Animal Handling on the horse by Mark fails. Carmina attacks Varius with burning hands for 10 HP.  Kayar hits Varius for 21 HP, and with an arrow through his throat, goes down hard.

The sergeant at arms breaks and flees. Sir Varius passes a death check.

Vognur pursues the sergeant; we want to take him captive. Sergeant can’t run without disengaging. The horse critically misses against Mark, which gives him the opportunity to Dash after the sergeant without provoking an attack of opportunity or disengaging. 

Carmina casts a healing spell on Aevin for 7 HP. Keyar snipes a fleeing yeoman, dropping him. The yeoman sergeant snarls and says “I’ll die fighting, rebel scum!” He attacks twice, rolling 9 and 21, hitting Vognur for 8 HP. 

Aevin moves over to Sir Varius to tie him up as he bleeds out; Sir Varius survives another death check. One more and he stabilizes. 

Vognur swings and misses. The yeomen flee for their lives. The horse bolts away, and Sir Colin fails a death check, his first one. Mark Bludiell misses badly again, despite Sacred Weapon. 

Mark has not done a single effective thing the entire fight; Keyar drills the final yeoman, who is slain.

Yeoman Sergeant draws a shortsword and attacks with two weapons, hitting with the shortsword for 4 HP.

Vognur finally connects, much to his player’s relief, doing 9 HP.  Sir Colin passes a death check, so he’s not out yet. Mark Bludiell finally connects, doing 11 HP, plus 3 HP for Divine Smite, which is so puny he takes Veritas’ name in vain. Come, on, really? Nothing is going well for Mr Paladin today.

Mr. Yeoman Sergeant misses three times with two longsword attacks and another shortsword attack. Keyar makes a Medicine roll for Colin thanks to a Bless ability. Sir Varius misses another death check. 

Mark actually hits again, and does 13 HP of damage, again most of it’s due to spending a spell slot for more juice.

Carmina plays horse whisperer, rolls 20 on Animal Handling thanks to Guidance, and calms a fleeing angry warhorse. Go him.

Keyar hits the sergeant with an arrow in the throat, and he finally goes down. He yanks the arrow out of Varius’ throat, which kills him. 

Mark stabilizes the yeoman sergeant for later interrogation. 

We loot the bodies, finding 100d on Sir Varius; another 50d on Sir Colin. Sir Colin’s armor is actually worth something – his full panoply and the warhorse is worth about 4,000d. Not bad. The carts hold 1,000d worth of supplies, which we can take back to Phandalin. Plus a pair of mules.

That just about makes up for the diamond dust we spent on exploding runes.

We get a short rest in, and Sidwin comes walking up the road from the South. He was supposed to be in Tain. 

We head to Phandalin, it’ll take us about two hours to cover the 4.5 miles to the town. Keyar goes to scout out Lervin to see what was going on there, why no one came to see the fight, nor the explosion. Sidwin was delayed in his journey to Tain when he had to fight off some ghouls, losing his henchman but saving some commoners in the process.

He did find a courier’s sash, though, as well as an iron rod, with a dragon’s claw holding a broken glass orb. We hand it over to Keyar; we inspect it, and it was clearly once magical. But the real treasure was the courier sash, which came from a fresher body; the orb came from a skeleton. Wands in that style were used by elven mages involved in creating magic items. You are not sure exactly; it’s definitely not a traditional wand. Maybe it’s a focus for creation, control, or focus. It’s definitely from 400-1,000 years ago.

We arrive in Phandalin between 3-5pm. We see the barricade manned by two militia. We introduce ourselves, and while being cheered for our victory, we head back and incarcerate Sir Colin and his Sergeant at arms. 

We take a Long Rest, and chain up the Sergeant and Sir Colin. 

Sir Colin eventually wakes with a grunt, spitting out some half-congealed blood. “Nice bit of spell work; only way you would have taken me down. You’re lucky we had a pretty little lady to cast these spells for you.”

We ask if Sir Colin is willing to give us his parole, as a properly captured knight. He says he can’t speak, he says. 

Yeah, right.

“Hrmph. You’re smarter than you look. Your best bet is to kill me here where I stand. I’d never give my parole to scum like you.”

Mark asks about the priest captured and tortured back in Highgarden. Last time Sir Colin saw him he was just blubbering. 

Markbludiell slams a sword through his chest, ending the life of a brutal, evil thug (he asked Vertias first. Sir Colin was the very definition of evil). 

Sidwin shakes his head, walks out of the building, and keeps walking. Night falls as Sidwin heads for Tain.

***

That’s the session. 

“The only bad time to cast explosive runes is inside a room of less than 20′ radius.”

We chat for a bit, trying to figure the next move.

OK, we jump right back in, waking up in Phandelver with the town still intact, and us heading out to Tain via Highgarden Manor. We look to see if we could bring a few fast riders, that we could dispatch in case we need to send a “LOOK OUT, VIOLENCE” warning back to Phandelver. We look around, and there are no horses, let alone fast horses, to be found anywhere. Only mules, oxen, and other mining-friendly beasts. We decide on runners instead, and Devan and Tomas step up. One of them brags he brought a midwife to town – there and back – in the time it usually takes to get just there.

He’s hired.

We head out to Highgarden Manor, crossing a ridge along the way. As we crest the ridge, we see a knight and a couple spearmen. We decide to approach. Mark’ s a more “Hey, diddle diddle, straight up the middle” type. Keyar Nailo, our resident elven ranger, sneaks through the underbrush, while the rest of us approach openly.

We get to about 500yds away before we’re noticed. They stop abruptly, then ride closer, readying weapons cautiously. They take out weapons. So do we. Mark reminds Tomas and Devan, our “spear-carrier” messengers, that their job is to carry messages, not fight.

We are challenged by a knight – not Sir Varius – who demands that our Elder of Mitra surrender her weapons, as the Mitrans are unlawfully in rebellion against the overlord.

Hmm. Well, that’s true, but we’re not giving up weapons for nothing. Carmina tried Hold Person, but our foe resists easily, recognizes that an attempt to bewitch was made, and orders an attack.

Our ranger misses with a surprise bow shot (grar!), while Aevin steelhand crits with a crossbow shot and nails him for 8 HP. Carmina herself casts Sacred Fire, and our target fails his saving throw, taking another 9 HP. 

The knight delivers two blows to Carmina, hitting with one of the blows for 14 HP. So if he’s a fighter, he’s level 5 or higher. So this guy could easily have 40 HP or so. Keyar fires again. Mark steps up, using Sacred Weapon to add his CHA bonus to his strikes attack rolls, and spends a spell slot to increase damage. He barely hits rolling 15+4, and does 16 HP total, badly injuring him. Aevin hits again for 8 HP, and the knight falls to the ground.

Now it’s just the two Yeomen, one seems likely to run, but the other calls out “We must save Sir Melius!” and hey stand firm. One hits Aevin Steelhand for 9 HP, which ain’t bad for him.

The horse (!) is a tough foe as it is; it goes into a blood frenzy, but stumbles (critical miss). 

Carmina casts Spare the Dying on Sir Melius; we have no wish to see him dead, we just aren’t going to be giving up our arms to anyone.

Mark casts Command: “SURRENDER!” at DC 14, and the final yeoman surrenders, and drops his weapons. Aevin tries to use Athletics to grab the reins of the horse. Naturally, he crits, rolling 26. He tugs it down, and the horse stands trembling, quieted.

Aevin passes the reins to Mark, who makes a nice Animal Handling roll (he’s got skill in it) to pacify and hobble the horse. We set to work making our foes safe.

The ransom of arms and armor of a defeated foe is part of the social structure. What we know about this guy is that he’s a horse barbarian. Full of honor, pride, and duty – but with more “modern” gear and a really nice horse. Fully trained warhorse.

His holy symbol is that of the Lars; a traditionalist. He’s not a threat from that perspective. He is a full supporter of the Overlord, and Phandelver is not normally part of his responsibility. 

We wake him up, restoring 10 HP via Lay on Hands. He wakes and gives his ransom amount (500sp), and being told his men are alive, gives the parole for the bunch of them. “I’m in your power, maiden,” he sneers in a derogatory way. 

“I’d prefer to be addressed as Elder,” Carmina says gently. “You may not believe this, but I have no quarrel with you. I was reacting to the injustice of your demands.”

“I didn’t seek it either, but you won, so I have no choice but to ransom myself, my arms, and my horse.”

Mark grills Sir Melius a bit, and says he was just out and about patrolling his land after some messengers from the Church of Mitra caused a rebellion on his lands. He’s heard that the regent has draconic support. He’d also been requested to join Sir Varius at Highgarden, but Melius thinks Varius is a twit, so he had better things to do.

We huddle up, to discuss.

We make Insight rolls, and know that we can leave horse and armor with the Temple of Mitra, in escrow. 1500sp to the Temple, in exchange for the parole and that’ll keep him off the playing field for a few weeks. 

We move on, and proceed on to Highgarden. Keyar will scope out the place, using a bit of subterfuge and looking like a wandering hunter. Which he is. He grabs some dead rabbits and goes to look around. As he gets closer to town, he draws curiosity but not alarm.

In front of the main manor, Keyar sees weapons, arrows, arms, and provisions being stacked in wagons in front of the main manor. In the center of the area, to the west of the center of town, is a burning or burned temple of Mitra. There is weapons practice going on, loudly, near the town center as well. There are 36 4″ turtle shells tied up in an odd bundle in front of the tavern. 

In the manner of one transacting business, Keyar asks to sell the rabbits. A garrulous trader want to buy, and tells him that the Mitrans have truly overthrown the City State. The Dracolindes will save them all, kegs of mead, happy times are hear again, etc.

About fifteen minutes after that, Various chased him out of the village; he returned without killing the guy, then burned out the temple. 

They keep transacting, and chatting, and Keyar provisions himself up. Varius is offering a silver a day to go beat up Phandelver.

Because the Phandelver guys are raising an army to attack the Sheriff of Tain.


Sir Colin brought his troops over the other night; he’s the guy to talk to, but he’s a hard man. Fair, but hard. The magistrate is on his way to Tain with the miners. The troops planned to leave at noon, but that won’t happen. They’ll be leaving this afternoon at the latest, though. There’s about a dozen fighters, two knights. Mitra go with you. And Keyar has concluded a spectacular recon foray.

We write the messages and intel out, and immediately dispatch our two runners back to Phandelver. It’s about 2 hours walking, 4-6 by wagon.

Oh, and as the missing priest of Mitra is mentioned, the area next to the manor is darkened by the hand of Veritas. Evil has been committed within. Markbludiell starts to get all twitchy; he really wants to get into the manor house, and bring out either the body of the priest, or his healed and talkative self. Plus any records that might be in the place.

We decide, though, that the two knights are primary. They’re the fulcrum on which a lot of pain may arise; stopping them 

***

We break there. We all get 200XP for gaming, and we give 100XP to +Daniel McEntee as MVP. +Ken H , +Joshua Macy +Chris C. , +Peter V. Dell’Orto +Rob Conley 

I’m playing in +Rob Conley  Majestic Wilderlands campaign, using D&D 5th edition as the ruleset. I’m playing a Paladin of 4th level, following Oath of Devotion. The character background and full writeup can be found here.

I’ve got six spell slots plus Sanctuary and Protection from Evil/Good which are Oath abilities and therefore always prepared. What I’m wondering is, in the collective experience, what spells are effective in what conditions and fit with the character concept.

My experience with D&D magic is somewhat limited, and I’m very interested in actual play anecdotes about where each spell might be more and less useful.

Note that at fourth level, I am only selecting from the fifteen 1st-level spells, of which two are pre-selected. So I’m basically choosing from half the list. My paladin is focused on sharp combat, defeating those that oppress the weak, and putting himself in the way of harm.

I tried the Stack Exchange forum, but since I’m asking for actual opinions and data, that seems to be off topic – that forum seems to be strictly right/wrong answer driven, which is not what I’m looking for.

So, here’s the list from which I must choose:

  • Bless
  • Command
  • Compelled Duel
  • Cure Wounds
  • Detect Evil/Good
  • Detect Magic
  • Detect Poison and Disease
  • Divine Favor
  • Heroism
  • Protection from Evil
  • Purify Food and Drink
  • Searing Smite
  • Shield of Faith
  • Thunderous Smite
  • Wrathful Smite

I already have Proection from Evil (and Sanctuary, for that matter). Perhaps the right way to go here is to talk about what’s not appropriate. Detect Magic and Poison/Disease doesn’t seem the right thing for my guy. He’s all about putting himself between overt threats – that was the curse/blessing that the fey elf and Veritas called him for. Likewise, Purify Food and Drink seems equally off-base.

Compelled Duel almost screams at me that it’s mandatory, so I’ll mark it that way. “Face the wrath of the Hand of Veritas!” seems just perfectly in character. Shield of Faith fits in perfectly with the Protection fighting style, so that has to go on the list. Four more.

That puts me at

  • Bless
  • Command
  • Compelled Duel
  • Cure Wounds
  • Detect Evil/Good
  • Detect Magic
  • Detect Poison and Disease
  • Divine Favor
  • Heroism
  • Protection from Evil
  • Purify Food and Drink
  • Searing Smite
  • Shield of Faith
  • Thunderous Smite
  • Wrathful Smite

So, of the four remaining choices, where would you go?

Edit: Based on the comments and another day’s play, I’ve made some more selections, with the definites in bold, and the options in red. I actually used Command in the game on Feb 16 to cause the surrender of a person that we might have otherwise had to kill. Bless is twice-recommended, so that’s probably in. Healing never goes out of style, so Cure Wounds isn’t a bad call, but Heroism and Divine Favor also have some compelling qualities.

So I’m down to “Pick two of Cure Wounds, Divine Favor, and Heroism.” I agree that spending a spell slot on 2d8 extra damage for my channel divinity ability (and more still with higher level spell slots, which I don’t currently have) is worth more than the smite spells. Plus I enjoy the visceral feeling of whacking things with swords.

I saw a question on the RPG Stack Exchange which got my wheels turning briefly. “Hey,” said a user. “I want to use a particular ability in 3.5, but it requires two slashing weapons, and my guy uses maces. I want a slashing mace!” The question also had a lot of rules-specific questions about some sort of wardancing, but that wasn’t what my focus was, and I’m unqualified to offer advice on that sort of thing anyway.

I put my GURPS hat on for a moment – always a mistake for D&D – and said “but hey, a top-heavy weapon that does slashing damage is a common thing. It’s called an axe.”

I was, of course, immediately downvoted. But still, Pathfinder gives a warhammer 1d8 Bashing damage (Warhammers should probably do piercing – they’re basically military picks, but easy mistake and probably legacy to the game) while battleaxes do 1d8 Slashing damage. Basically, the same weight of blow but different damage type, which is pretty much how GURPS would classify it, and how, within the one-handed martial weapons category, Pathfinder (the only 3.5-style book I have on my shelf) seems to as well.

Flip-flip-flip. Yep. D&D5 has the same similarity. 1d6 slashing for the hand-axe, 1d6 bludgeoning for the light mace; 1d8 bludgeoning for the warhammer, 1d8 slash for the battleaxe. It does have a “war pick” at 1d8 piercing (I’m sure Pathfinder does too), so all the top-heavy variants are covered.

I did suggest a combo weapon as well – mace on one side, axeblade on the other. I even found a decent example.

It’s no secret. Ever since I read Elisabeth Moon’s The Deed of Paksenarrion, I’ve loved playing paladins. +Rob Conley did me a favor and quoted the best description from the book in a prior blog post:

Paraphrased From page 579 of the Trade Paperback the Deed of Paksenarrion.

Most think being a holy warrior means gaining vast arcane powers, that they would be nearly invincible against any foe. But truth is that while Paladin are skilled at fighting, that was the least of their abilities. A quest might involve no fighting at all, or a battle against beings no steel could pierce.

Above all paladins show that courage is possible. It is easy enough to find reasons to give in to evil. War is ugly as many know. But we do not argue that war is better than peace; paladin are not that stupid. It is not peace when cruelty reigns, when stronger men steal from farmers and craftmen., when the child can be enslaved, or the old thrown out to starve, and no one lifts a hand. That is not peace: that is conquest and evil.

Paladins do not start quarrels in peaceful lands, never display their skills to earn applause. But we are the sword of good defending the helpless and teaching by our example that one person can dare greater force to break evil’s grasp on the innocent. Sometimes that can be done without fighting, without killing, and that is best.

But some evil needs direct attack, and paladins must be able to do it, and lead others in battle. Wonder why paladins are so likable? It is important, we come to a town, perhaps, where nothing has gone right for a dozen years. Perhaps there is a temple there and sometimes there is not. The people are frightened, and they have lost trust in each other, in themselves. We may lead them into danger, some will be killed or wounded. Why should they trust us?

Because we are likable, and other people will follow us willingly. And that’s why we are more likely to choose a popular adept as a candidate rather than the best fighters.

In any case I decided to explore the world of D&D5 a bit into the spellcaster/power user realm. I’m usually a pretty fond guy for straight-up fighter types: Fighters and Rogues. But I wanted to get my feet wet in the power set.

I started with the idea to try a Monk, but then I came up with a set of rolls, and given the religious struggle at the notional heart of the campaign (I think it’s deeper than that with religion as proxy, but there you go), I decided to try Paladin instead.

I decided that the guy would be a half-elf, who was doing his own thing one day as a boy when he came across a brutish young human with a group of seeming sycophants brutalizing another boy, a peasant.

Angered, he challenged the boy, mocked him, and in the ensuing fight, thrashed him soundly. He did not escape unscathed – nor unnoticed. A fey – a ridiculously high level wild Elven Monk – watched it all happen. As fey will do, she blessed him with an elvish glamour (the high CHA and Folk Hero background), but cursed him as well – marking him as such and bringing him to the attention of greater powers than eve she. Forever would he follow the path of defending the weak. 

And between the spell she cast marking him as forever an avenger of the downtrodden, and his bloody visage after the fight, he was called the Marked Bloody Elf. Or Mark the Bloody Elf, shortened to Mark Bludiell, Markbludiell, or just Mark. Even he does’t remember his former name.

This mark led to another one – a calling by the High Lord Veritas as his Hand in the Majestic Wilderlands. The curse that was a blessing was a seed that took root – and of course, the young thug happened to be the scion of a powerful noble. Because fey never give a rose without thorns.

Mark Bludiell (4th level Paladin of Veritas)


STR 17; DEX 12; CON 16; INT 12; WIS 14; CHA 18


Yeah, I rolled well. And the choice of Folk Hero plus my own choices gave me

Animal Handling; Insight; Intimidation; and Survival.


Natural abilities due to being half-elven don’t hurt:

Darkvision; Can’t be magically put to sleep; Advantage vs being charmed.

Paladin abilities by fourth level 

  • Divine Sense – with action, any celestial, fiend, or undead within 60′ not behind total cover. 1+CHA bonus per long rest
  • Lay on Hands – 20 HP healed per long rest; 5 HP from pool to cure disease or neutralize poison. 
  • Fighting Style: protection. Can take a reaction to give adjacent friend help by attacks against him having disadvantage. Requires shield.
  • Divine Smite – 2d8 extra damage for 1st level spell slot, +1d8 per spell slot level max 5d8, +1d8 on undead or fiend.
  • Immune to Disease (Divine Health)
  • Oath of Devotion

Channel Divinity (can do each once with a short rest between?)
  • Sacred Weapon (includes light) – Imbue one weapon with positive energy. Adds CHA to attack rolls. Bright light in 20′ radius. Treated as magical weapon. 
  • Turn Unholy – 30′ WIS saving throw or run away
His equipment is nothing special. Plate armor and a shield, for AC 20. A sword and a longbow. He’s got a horse, not a Paladin’s Mount, but a serviceable quality mount.

He can learn up to 6 1st level Paladin spells, though he can only cast three per day. 

I was surprised to find that there’s no basic Light spell on the Paladin’s list. While you can call light with Sacred Weapon, you can’t just play You Light Up My Life, which was a surprise. When I needed it, though, last adventure, Rob handwaved it away and allowed it as a cantrip because it was really cool as a part of an Intimidation roll.

I get Protection from Evil and Sanctuary as part of my Oath spells, always prepared. Six others? My calling is to always wade in where the fire is hottest, so in any fight I pick the biggest, baddest monster and head straight for him. If I must, I use Compel Duel to force him to fight me, to preserve others. As for he next five spells I have to pick, I’m still somewhat at a bit of a loss. Command seemed appropriate. Divine Favor too, as well as Searing Smite, though that one was mostly just cool. Given my protector thing, I should probably pick up Shield of Faith, Bless, and Heroism.


But I’m sure there are better choices out there, and I’m definitely up for good suggestions.

Mostly, in terms of other equipment, he’s probably got a basic adventurer’s pack with traveling gear and survival gear, and that’s about all. 

Thus far, he’s been fun to play. My background and calling play right into the thick of the plot, so this is the first paper man I’ve played in a while where the details of who he is, the what and why of his calling, are really important. Getting into roleplay for roleplay’s sake for the first time in a while is making me flex my imagination a bunch, much to the good.

***

Oh, and two posts ago was my 500th since I started the blog. Go me.

We start out having breakfast at an inn. +Peter V. Dell’Orto joins us playing an Elder of Mitra.

I believe the conversation begins trying to mitigate an uprising and prevent a war, or at least a slaughter, should actual troops come to put down the threat to the economic center that is Phandelver.

Carmina proposes confronting Halia and getting us to tell us what’s the deal with the list of people that she’s paying off that seems to be separate from her whole operation of purchasing fugitives to sell to the CityState as slaves.

That whole slave operation is a direct betrayal of her superiors, right up to the Invincible Overlord himself. Even if the Mitran revolution gets reversed, she’s in deep trouble there. That’s not kosher no matter who’s in charge.

I do a quick check on what the lay of the land is. Phandalin is kind of a nothing town. But the money from the mine has been shut off, and that will be noticed. We probably have a month at the near end, and three at the most, before the Big Dogs notice. Even before that, the local foes of Phandalin may show up to remind the townsfolk that they are, in fact, messing with the source of coin in the local region. The mine supplies the coin, which is used to buy food and other items from the surrounds. No mine, no economy.


An arrogant merchant comes in and starts insulting everyone. Not recognizing a Paladin of Veritas, she mouths off a bit. Mark stands up and calls divine light, rolling Intimidation at an advantage, hitting a 22, and she beats a hasty and chastened retreat. Mission accomplished.

We do a politics overview. The regents are led by the Myrmidon of Set. City State has been taken over by the forces of Mitra. The church of Mitra is present in the neighboring country of Modron, who had paid to finance a future rebellion. The Principality of Modron is a Ghinorian Successor Realm dominated by the Church of Mitra but is not a theocracy but the church of Tain.

Markbludiell speculates that the rumor of uprising in City State was planted. The inflammation caused the uprising (the casus belli) and the shutdown of the money from the mines provides the reason to actually care.

We discuss threats and eventualites and politics – and a young man bursts into the room shouting that the Redbrands (?) are back, and are under the inn. This seems to have been a feature of a previous campaign. 

Apparently “Carp” is in trouble. Little Timmy has fallen into the well, more or less. Rob pulls the ‘if conversation goes on too long, have ninjas kick in the door’

We pile into the area under the Inn, which can only be called a dungeon.

We advance, and eventually see a mage, four thugs, and Carp. The mage says “describe them again, starting from the top.”

Poor Carp starts spilling his guts. About the members of our party that he knows about. In great detail.

Sidwin the Sharp takes careful aim (“Hit him in the hit points!” says +Peter V. Dell’Orto), and rolls a 23 (and a 19! ” +Tim Shorts are you OK? Neither of those was a 1!”). The sneak attack strikes home and he hits for 15 HP total. 

Now for initiative, and Markbludiell rolls a 2. Gah. I am become Tim, roller of 1s. Look upon my order, ye mighty, and laugh maniacally. Sigh.

Carmina closes the distance to the northeast door. The mage then turns around and casts a Web spell at Sidwin. Web is good at preventing closing the distance, but doesn’t prevent a guy with a ranged weapon from peppering you with arrows. Vognur moves, sees the web, says “Aw, Crap!” and tries to start hacking through the web, not wishing to set the web on fire with Sidwin in it.

The thugs all shoot crossbows at Sidwin, two of which hit for 15 HP of damage. 

We discuss making the Shield spell +2d4 to AC instead of a flat +5 to make it less deterministic if it’s worth casting.

Markbludiell moves to the doorway as well, but cannot see a foe. Carmina charges to the south entrance, which she remembers comes around the back of the bad guys, though a 10′ pit must be crossed to get to them. 

Lamar burns away a section of web. 

The mage casts magic missile at Sidwin; he reacts with a shield spell. “You’ll have to do better than that!” and rolls an Intimidation check with DC 15 – he rolls 19 and nails it. They are intimidated.

Alb Irex moves forward and goes for another interaction – “Give up, and we’l spare your lives!”  We all laugh, so at least we aren’t intimidated.

Sidwin comes up and gets in an action, but then gets pasted for another 15HP. He’s down 30 HP, so this is bad news for him. 

We are having real issues with the web, and that’s when, of course, the mage throws a fireball down the corridor. 

“How many HP do you have left?” “Not enough to survive a fireball from a 7th level (or so) mage, likely”

Sidwin rolls a crit, and the door slams shut. The web burns away. And Carp, poor kid, turns into a crispy critter, screaming as he burns. Those that saved take 1/4 damage, those that don’t take half damage, thanks to the quick reaction/critical from Sidwin.

Vognur charges in “You killed Carp; he was just a boy!” but doesn’t get to attack. Alb Irex charges in, and casts a healing spell, healing him completely by the power of Mitra.

Sidwin charges forward, jumps on the mage with the neck, and gives him a little stabby stabby in the neck neck, to quote the player.

He also rolls an intimidation roll and nails it. The thugs are mostly cowering, but some are still active.

Markbludiell rolls in and protects the priest of Mitra and now-healed but still fallen child. It’s what he does.

Carmina rolls some flaming flaminess. “I’ll see your pokey stabbiness, and raise you flamy flaminess! It’s a third level burn!”

We basically finish the mage off. “That’s for Carp!” 

“Um, he’s alive!” “Tim doesn’t know that.”

There is still fighting to the south, with a bunch of bad guys peppering Carmina with crossbow bolts, so Markbludiell dashes forward, leaps a pit, and tries to close with the bad guys. Sidwin also jumps the pit and advances to the fray.

Tim runs forward and has cast Disguise Person on himself; he impersonates the mage and tells the remaining thugs that their cause is lost. They throw down their weapons, and we come forward, and Sidwin drops his disguise. 

We have six captured thugs and one dead mage. We loot ’em all, scoring a magic wand that shoots Web spells, 660d in coin, and a letter. We also find a blacked silver dragonhead token. It’s a sign of Pan Caulderax – she is a dragon. An actual, no-crap dragon that lives in Warwick, north of here. She’s been wanting to infringe on City State territories. 


My divine intuition tells me that this is one of the prime movers in my holy calling. Not the revolution, but the currents being stirred by the dragon.
We interrogate the prisoners. Mori is a green dragon, living south of us, in Dearthwood. Maud is, perhaps, “some girl,” so say the thugs. They also mention a Vermian. And being killed by Herone (?) since they failed. They need to tell Vermian it’s time to come home. 
They did visit the Glasstaff. Oh, and Vermian is Mori’s offspring. The dragon in Thundertree sounds like a young dragon.
Pan Caulderax is well known to the elves. The Silverwood, home of the elves, was taken out by an army of orcs led by that dragon. That army also took out the dwaven stronghold of the Majestic Fastness, which is rumored to be the dragon’s lair to this day.
Herone is a merchant in Tain – just north of here.
Markbludiell prays for guidance; the gods cannot or do not take a side in that matter. 
Intervening in the workings of the locak bad-guy Knight (Sir Varius of Highgarden Manor) is within the realm of human choice. Other pertinent detail: There is probably a dozen other manors between Vallon and Phandelver each with a knight and 2 to 4 yeoman. But their allegiance is fragmented; they might break any direction. Set, Mitra, pro-overlord, the Lars (ancestor worship), etc. 
We do a lot of discussion. There’s a dearth of information. We don’t know whether the Knight of Highgarden Manor is about to mount an attack on Phandelver, or not. We don’t really know if the Regency has really been overthrown by Mitra (we suspect “hell no.”) We do know that the dragon Pan Caulderax is at the center of one of the major plot stirrings. We also suspect that Sir Varius isn’t bright/motivated enough to attack without being poked in that direction.
We decide to head through Highgarden and then on to Tain, looking for mobilization. Sidwin (Tim will be absent next monday) will go ahead to Tain, paving the way for a later visit. We can intervene in Highgarden if bad stuff is happening there. If not, onward to Tain to get info on whether the political situation that motivated the revolt in Phandelver was underpinned by a real upheaval in the capital, or not.
***
We end there, having spent but a day in-game. We will execute the plan next game time.

This may be a short post. My newly-made Paladin charged into the opening fight as per his “seek out the baddest guy” custom, and got nailed for a crit for 4d8+2 damage, for 22 points. That brought him down hard from 38 hp. Several misses later, Mark (my guy) gets hit again for 9, though he was healed in the interim for 9 HP as well. 

He’s missed twice, but the third time, he connects, and expends a spell slot to do an extra 2d8 damage, for a total of 3d8+3, and he rocks in for 23 HP. That sounds like a good plan for the future, then. Gotta take this guy down before things get horribly out of control.

The rest of the guys are engaging the soldiers – all of whom seem tough. High armor class of 16 or more. 


Sidwin the Sharp – I think is an orc or half-orc, we started in media res so Mark isn’t sure – slides in behind the big guy and eviscerates him with a backstab. Whew.

The miners that were around the campfire continue to run, and Keyar Nailo misses with a rapier stab. We continue to make slow, steady process, knocking down an orc here and there, and they have to make a morale check, only DC 10, but two flee anyway. 

I think that leaves four active foes. Mark runs up behind one of the uninjured orcs, and nails him in the back for 10 slashing damage (he got advantage due to facing). I can see this character is going to need a lot of healing though – this “my calling is to be where the fight is hottest in the defense of the good and the weak” thing is going to damage my calm a lot.

We continue mopping up, the higher level characters taking their toll, and the field is clear enough to start picking up stragglers, and Mark kills the last fighting orc. 

Kayar and Mark both shoot at the fleeing orc, downing him. Sidwin goes and drags him back to stabilize him for questioning. 

Of the miners, we save four of the miners that were wounded. So two dead, four wounded, six robust and unharmed.

The miners are perhaps predictably, grumpy. Rewards are promised if we can get them to safety. They claim they cannot go back to Phandalin; they’d be arrested by the town leaders.

Halia is the leader of the miners; she’s the foreman and a worshipper of Set. The miners are pleased with their treatment, but the Mitrans rand them all out of town, and captured Halia. 

Hmm. Politics.

And some inter-party strife. The overlord has been bleeding the city-state dry, worshipper of Set. The priestess of Mitre that was journeying with me declares against the overlord, and Mark Bludiell is on the side of justice and light, as befits his station.

Much politicking happens that frankly goes by a bit fast for me, and we split the party, I think, and head to Phandalin. We push through the barricade manned by two weak-minded commoners. The Paladin brushes them aside (Mark rolls badly, the barricade soldiers roll worse) and we continue, eventually meeting a Priestess of Mitre and two merchants.

We return Gundrin to the merchants, and note that our fellow party members are escorting a group of miners to the manor house. They ask if we’re from City-State or Dracolindes.

Draco-what? We don’t know either.

We find out that the Sheriff is in Tain, and that sounds like a bad thing, I think.

Markbludiell gets some dents pounded out of his armor from the previous fight. 

We switch scenes, and the PCs come up to the manor house, and a knight in shabby, unkept armor is riding towards them with two companions. It would seem that all representatives of the City-State have been bad guys.

“Well, look what the cat dragged in. State your business here,” says the Knight.
“We’re here seeking refuge, we’re here to see the Sheriff of Tain…”

The miner goes up to the Knight, and shows him something – the High Elf Keyar sees the exchange, and watches the Knight all of a sudden give the miners the Shepherd Book treatment. “Get this man to the infirmary at once!” and whatnot.

We discuss the politics of the situation; we’ve endangered, perhaps, one of the higher ups of the Black Lotus, a spy network. They decide to march hard to Phandelver in order to warn the town that minions and armies of Set may be descending on them.

They return to Phandelver/Phandalin, and run into the same barricade that Markbludiell and the priestess passed earlier. They greet them, “your friends passed earlier with Gundrin!” and are very jovial and welcoming.

The barricade is explained as a reaction to the City-State being under control of the Church of Mitre. They’re kicking out the Settites and taking control themselves. They’ve locked up the reeve, the miners were driven out as allies of Set, and Halia is in jail, etc.

They asked if they got glassstaff? No, they didn’t. They got the drowning black spider, but not the glass-staff. 

They send ’em down to the Stonehill Inn, where the Paladin and Priestess are kickin’ for dinner. The village seems very friendly, and there are about six guys with spears roasting sausage outside the inn. There are probably 100 or so, total, poor excuses for soldiers pretending they’ll make a difference.

The rumors are sweeping across the town that the Overlord Dracolindes, whose patron is Mitre, they say, has taken over the City State. There was an acolyte from the Cathedral; the Duchy of Darkmead is rising as well. Two more allies, and they’re unbeatable. Etc, etc.

We gather around and speak a bunch more; those with Investigation look into the Halia issue, trying to piece together anything coherent from the overall story. Does she have papers and notes? 

***

I had to go at that point – a conference call in 15 minutes, and an emergency laptop issue.

But wow . . . the Majestic Wilderlands is a dynamic, complicated place to adventure in. Youv’e got countries. Territories. Wilderness. Cities. City-states, each with their own geopolitical stuff going on. Plus the conflict between Set and Mitre . . . or at least, the political conflict between two religious factions, and then there are the layers which may or may not be related, such as whether the Dracolinders guy is actually “rah, rah, Mitre” or he’s playing his own game.

This is so very different from the “beer and pretzels” games I’ve played for a while. I have to pay attention carefully, and I don’t even know who the PCs really are yet! I’m feeling like what I need is a mind map of all the factions. This is probably something +Liz Theis‘ Realmworks might be good at. I wonder if I can/should try using my copy to take notes on this place?

Something needs to be done, though – I’m drowning in the detail. 

It didn’t help that my own PC, Markbludiell (or Mark, or Mark Bludiell – his identity other than as a Paladin, Chosen of Veritas isn’t that important to him) is still nascent. He’s got some backstory written by me, and another large bit of text that was provided by Rob – but I haven’t integrated all of that into his background, personality, story, and motives. 

Hell, I don’t even know what he’s been Called to do, but Paks had that problem too, so I’m not that worried. But in fiction, the characters can be led around by the Hand of God pretty solidly and no one minds. The shared experience of RPGs means I have to be more proactive – seek out The Injustice or whatever the divine mission is, and hit it with a sword a lot. Or whatever is sovereign for the task at hand.

In any case, I think I have homework to do.

***

Finally, we got about 440 XP for the adventure, which I’m told isn’t bad. At that pace, it’ll be 2-3 more sessions until 5th level, and from there I think 8.000 or so more XP until 6th level, which means a dozen or two sessions per level. So I better get used to this power level for a while. Perhaps.

We follow the underground pathway for a bit longer, and eventually come to a small building area known as Crossroads. We’re met by a gnome in armor, with a golem of some sort, 10′ tall or so. For moral support.  

They discover (because we tell them) that they’ve come home, to Crossroads. A celebration must ensue! 

They take us to their main city, PrinceTown, which +Ken H lovingly rendered in full detail. The primary city is under a large metal dome – defensible and artistic. It is smooth, with no visible seams or joins. It looks like one piece of steel. Each door can be seen opening and closing, but the doors themselves are quite thick, and seem to open themselves, automatically.

We had a party, and the mayor gave a speech. The Hobgoblins came, stole their friends, and these heroes, (for a healthy price), rescued them, yea ha! Bless this food, this gathering, and these heroes, etc. Amen.

+Daniel McEntee arrives. We tell him we’re at a Gnome feast. He asks if we’re on the menu. We say no, and continue.


We gain some knowledge about the map of the Gnome’s territories, a large land, and note that we came through Benn’s house. The map shows Benn’s House to Princetown, and that was about 94 squares. Um. Rough guess about 30 miles, making the extent of the Gnome lands about 10 miles by 6 miles. Making it larger than Rhode Island (kidding. Mostly.)

In any case, we gain knowledge abut the Dwarven Exploration, and the Gnomish History.

Summary of Dwarven Exploration Notes 

The dwarven engineers, builders and miners associated with the Elementalist Monastery left their
exploration notes with the gnomes. Here is the summary: 

  1. The elementalist monastery is 5 levels deep. 
  2. There have been at least two previous settlements of dwarves: 
    • There are remnants of a dwarven city that lie below the fifth level of the elementalist
      monastery. There is no records of this in written dwarven history and the elves simply
      say that the dwarves were stupid to mine and build in such a cursed area. 
    • There was a later influx of dwarves. They avoided the ruins of the dwarvish city and
      mined extensively throughout the area. They were a large but disorganized group,
      which many of them eventually ending up quite deep in the earth. They were able to
      mine significant amounts of gold and silver, but it was a dangerous place. The smart few
      left and most of the rest died. There is some belief that dwarves continued to migrate
      deeper and they are still down there somewhere. 
  3. The dwarves involved with the elementalist monastery discovered a distant gold mine and, with
    the help of the gnomes, built wagons riding on metal rails to transport themselves and their
    gold. The elementalists discouraged this worldly pursuit of wealth, but some in the monastic
    order began to enrich themselves. 
  4. The dwarves discovered several places that were created by outsiders. The first was an area of
    obelisks. The dwarves were banished from this area by the elementalists. Some dwarven
    explorers discovered an area with some of the outsider creatures in tanks near an ancient
    dwarven mining area. This was seen as a very dangerous area and the dwarves destroyed the
    ancient bridge that crossed the chasm, thus severing access from the elementalist monastery.

Summary of the Gnome Chronicles

The gnomes wrote a chronicle of their escape from the elementalist civil war. This is a summary: 

  1. The human monks in the elementalist monastery fell apart into three factions. One faction had
    grown rich by stealing from the dwarven miners. Some within this faction fell into the practice of
    demon worship. A second group was enticed by the powerful magic left behind by the outsiders
    who had once inhabited this area. They used this power to bend the universe in unwholesome
    ways. They also became cannibals. A third group wanted to remain faithful to the elementalists’
    beliefs and practices. They were quickly wiped out, despite the capable leadership of Cassius. 
  2. The dwarves and gnomes fought alongside Cassius. They were able to drive the demon
    worshippers off, chasing them to the dwarves’ ancient gold mining area many miles to the east
    of the monastery. 
  3. The victory had weakened Cassius’ group. He released the gnomes and dwarves to flee for
    safety. Despite overwhelming odds, Cassius and his group was almost successful in their attack
    against the cannibal faction. The cannibals had progressed quickly in their knowledge of alien
    magic and with this magic they defeated Cassius and his followers. 
  4. The gnomes fled through the ant colony to their garden area and then down. The dwarves
    helped them flee, but the dwarves were hunted down and eaten. The gnomes who were
    captured were sacrificed in a secret magic ritual known only to the cannibals. 
  5. The gnomes descended deep into the earth until they found a large cave filled with a forest of
    mushrooms. They carved a small farming community at the western end of the forest. 
  6. Sometime later, a group of stone giants, who also followed in the elementalist way, settled in
    the remaining portion of the forest. They and the gnomes developed an understanding that was
    to their mutual benefit.

The mayor notices that Duncan the Gnome has a hat that gives him a royal countenance. He doffs his hat and bows, revealing the crown of the gnomish king! General amazement ensues, and the gnomes ask if Duncan has returned to be king. 

The mayor leans in, and offers 10 gold bars as a reward for returning the gnomes, but he’ll personally double it if we leave and not come back.

“Oh, well, we didn’t have enemies until you guys showed up.”
“That you knew of. Your people were getting eaten.”
“We have strong allies in the Stone Giants. We give them food, they give us stoneware.”
“But they were eating your people.”
“We had no enemies until you guys showed up.”


I start to wonder if we’re going to have a re-run of “how many five-year-olds can you beat up?” Do you know how mayors and other politicians react when you threaten to take their power away?

Predictably. 

There are wood golems and guys in armor around too. The conversation starts to get heated, pointed, and Luven starts sizing up the opposition. There are about 25 gnomes in armor, in groups of 3, each with a construct per group. . 

Duncan offers that we can ask for the current offer plus a few constructs to help us remove the “menace” and ask if any young gnomes would like to enter service to “our royal self”

Duncan stands up, exposes his gnomish crown, and offers up a mighty speech. He totally nails his Charisma check, +2 for leading gnomes, as the gnomes rename the town Kingstown. The mayor takes off his sash, goes down on one knee, and offers up his sash to Duncan.

“OK, we’ll finish the feast and hold court in the morning! Where can we sleep?”
“Somewhere with really thick walls and squeaky floors,” says Nosphryc, sotto voce.

All hail King Duncan! And Queen Breena! (Wait, what? What about the bear!)

“Yay! We have a king! That’s come to stay with us! Forever.”

We keep expecting Ken to ask us all to roll up new characters. You didn’t get a TPK, it was a TPP – Total Party Politicization. Keeping the TP in politics, as if it needed the help. “If you have an election lasting more then four hours, you should seek Clerical help!”

Duncan decides to retire and become king! First time we have a mid-game character loss due to becoming royalty! He decides to make up a Eldritch Knight at 5th level.

“I want to go to the crappy town where I’m a hero.”  – Hoban Washburne

We each get 3,900 x.p for delivering the rescued gnomes…Duncan gains an extra 5,000 for becoming king
 Nosphryc is about 1200XP shy of next level; a T-shirt appears on the screen:

Over on Google+, +Benjamin Baugh was thinking about damage reduction in place of increased hit difficulty for D&D armor.

This obviously strikes a chord with this GURPS (and D&D) player, and I replied:

Even if you run screaming from the game, the implications of negated attacks and armor as damage reduction/resistance are fully fleshed out in GURPS. It assumes that an attack “good enough to hit” is only the first step, and there are two different opportunities to negate it – a defense roll and the “damage soak” provided by armor.

Lots of concepts implicit in the rules that you could choose to ignore or map to D&D mechanics.

In fact, I think I’m going to yoink this thread and see what I can make of it. :-)

Rather than write a post that says “do this,” I’m going to start with thinking about the kinds of things that might have to be true in order to map a GURPS-like combat sequence to D&D mechanics.

Why Bother?


Well, firstly, I obviously like the GURPS sequence of attack-defend-penetrate armor-resolve injury. I feel that it involves more player agency, since the defense roll also comes with a plethora of tactical options, including yielding ground, special parry types, damaging parries, and the ability to do a “riposte” that sacrifices the ability to defend this around for an extra increase to hit in a following round. 

So yeah: if you just like roll 1d20+bonus vs. your AC, by all means keep doing it. I do it five times a month and have a riotously good time, so this is in the nature of a thought experiment.


The Key Questions


GURPS asks different questions for resolving attacks than does D&D. They are, basically

1) Did you throw a blow good enough to hit a target, assuming he doesn’t do anything about it?

This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s not. If you’ve even been in martial arts training, you’ve either thrown, or seen thrown, kicks and punches that are terribly, awfully mistimed, or (more often) where the distance is just completely wrong. The defender could just stand there, and the attack would still miss. In fact, more advanced students will do exactly that, while beginners will attempt to defend anyway. 

In GURPS, the basic hit chances can start out pretty low, especially for Joe Normal. A punch would default to DX, while a weapon attack would probably default to something like DX-5, which is a crazy-low Skill-5 which you can see in one of my more widely-read Melee Academy posts is really, really awful. If you’re attacking another Joe Average, you’re probably looking at an All-Out Telegraphic attack. That would be an 83% chance to throw a blow worthy of landing (but your foe’s defenses will be 50% or higher in that situation). 

But I digress. The key is, the first question is “did you throw something worthy of hitting a doofus who’s basically just standing there?” It doesn’t take that many points in skill, plus the All-Out and Telegraphic options, to make the answer to this question “Yes, yes I did” often enough that you can presume it. 

Of course, you can’t defend if you do that.

2) OK, here comes a blow worthy of hitting. Does the foe defend, and how?

This one gives you three options. You may always try and dodge; and if terrain and your maneuver selection allows, you can also retreat for a big honkin’ bonus. If Joe Untrained can back the hell up, this one will start at about 62% chance of success, boosted to 83% if he’s receiving a Telegraphic Attack.

He can also parry, which is to use a weapon or unarmed technique to ward off the blow. This is based on combat skill, and the more skilled you are, the better your defenses. But it takes a +2 in your skill to give you a +1 to defend – it’s presumed to be harder than attacking.

Finally, if he’s got a shield, he can block. This is basically a parry with a shield, but it also works with arrows (which normal parries do not) and has some advantages when parrying weapons like flails. 

Dodge is based on your speed, equal to 3+(DX+HT)/4; Parry and Block are 3+Skill/2.

3) OK, you hit the guy. Was he wearing armor? If so, did you hit it hard enough to either penetrate it or deliver damage through it anyway?


Once you hit and your foe fails to defend, you roll damage . . . and if your target has no Damage Resistance, he takes HP of injury. If he does, you subtract the DR from the damage. This can nullify the attack, even if it hits.

4. You penetrated his armor. Is he dead yet?


This one’s pretty universal. Get down to 0 HP or lower, and Bad Things happen.

Good grief, get to the D&D part already!


Right. Now we start to play.

The D&D question set is smaller. It basically treats steps 2 and 3 as a single, passive score. If you overcome this score, you proceed to 4. Now, there are a few exceptions. You can Dodge in D&D, a whole-turn action that, well . . . the rules are now online. So:

DODGEWhen you take the Dodge action, you focus entirely on avoiding attacks. Until the start of your next turn, any attack roll made against you has disadvantage if you can see the attacker, and you make Dexterity saving throws with advantage. You lose this benefit if you are incapacitated (as explained in appendix A) or if your speed drops to 0.

With apologies to WotC, I’ve linked some commentary I made about Advantage and Disadvantage, a mechanic that keeps on giving. Really, it’s genius.

Still, what happens here is you roll your attack, and if you beat the Armor Class of your foe, you injure him – or if you’re bugged about injury in the face of short rests, you at least reduce his Hit Points.

A starting D&D character – who is probably NOT Joe Normal – swinging at a guy with average stats in mail armor (call it a chain shirt) will roll 1d20+2+his STR bonus, and that’s likely to be a +3 if you choose from the Basic Array and play a human. So 1d20+5 vs an AC 15 (assuming DX bonus of +2, from the Standard Array). Basically a 50% chance of doing injury.

It of course will depend on how far you want to go with this, but in general, if you’re going to look at attack, defend, absorb damage:

  • Hitting should probably be easier, and you should get better at it as your level increases. The second part (thanks to proficiency bonuses) is true already.
  • Defending should be a thing. Dodge and defensive movement might still be rolled into a passive effect, or they might be active effects. 
  • Damage resistance would have to be worked out by armor type. Weapon damage might need to increase to compensate. Maybe not. If high level means you are negating more and more attacks with active defenses, this may mean HP need to come down. Maybe way down.

Let’s Try


OK, so we’re going to GURPSify D&D. [Cue howls of outrage. OK, better now? Good.]

The attack roll

I’m tempted to just say Roll 1d20 plus the usual bonuses vs. a DC of 10. This gives our Joe Average (well, not exactly average, if he’s a 1st level fighter with STR 16, CON 15, DEX 14, INT 11, WIS 13, CHA 9) at first level 1d20+5, and a 20th-level character with STR 20 and a proficiency bonus of +6 a 1d20+11. He’s always going to hit. As he should.

I’m going to speculate that we’ll want how well he hits to matter. In GURPS, this is done by the mechanic of Deceptive Attack – you take a penalty to your hit roll, and half that penalty applies to your foe’s defenses.

This is a bit more risky than the Margin of Success method, but this is D&D, not GURPS – let’s forget that. We’ll go with a single roll, which determines your quality of hit:

Make an attack roll vs. DC 10. Note your margin of success.


Level 1 character: average hit chance 75%; average margin of success on a hit 7.5.
Level 17 character (assumes STR 20): 95% hit chance; average margin on a hit 12


The Defense Roll


The defender gets a roll to ward the blow. The skill of the character (or level of the monster) should matter for parries and blocks. Many animals and monsters will simply try and dodge. Let’s call that Evade, to distinguish it from the official Dodge rule above.

Evade


This should probably be a DEX-based roll, against something like 8 or 10 plus the foe’s DEX bonus, and maybe the proficiency bonus as well. At 1st level, that’s going to be about +4, while the incoming hit roll will have succeeded (or else you wouldn’t defend) and so have a margin from 0 to 15 (assuming another 1st level assailant). If you want two first level characters to stay more or less the same chance of a successful blow landing, defenses are going to be pretty low. Something like only succeeding 30-35% of the time. So if you’re rolling with DEX and proficiency of +4, you’re looking at DC 18 or so, which conveniently means your target might be something like 10+Margin.

How does that work for our Level 17 hero? A fighter gets seven ability score increases, each of which is a +2. He can get to his STR 20 with a two +2 bonuses, or a single +2 and two well-chosen Feats. That leaves four or five others. Let’s assume he gets a single +2 to DEX, with another +2 for CON, and then two or three actual martial Feats. So STR 20, DEX 16, CON 18, and a bunch of Feats, probably four (one of which probably raises STR by 1). Lots of ways to get there, but the point is, our Level 17 fighter is rolling 1d20+9 against a DC 22 incoming blow. He’ll succeed 40% of the time vs. a foe of his own quality, and against the 1st level guy at DC 17, 60% of the time. 

I don’t think this is enough disparity between Level 1 and Level 17 here. But then, our Level 1 character will be rolling 1d20+5 against our Level 17’s AC of 20 assuming non-magical plate and a shield. 30% chance to hit. Against the active defense roll, he’ll make a successful attack 75% of the time, and Level 17 will fail to defend 40% of the time . . . for a 30% chance to hit. Maybe not so bad after all.

Block

This is just a defense using a shield. Again, skill matters, so proficiency counts. I’m tempted by four options here:

  1. The shield’s usual bonus to AC of +2 adds to the roll, making it 1d20+Proficiency+2 (Shield Bonus)
  2. Double the shield’s usual bonus to the roll: 1d20+Proficiency+4 (1d20+6 for Level 1)
  3. You get your STR bonus plus the shield bonus. For our +3 STR guy, that’s 1d20+7 (shield, STR, proficiency).
  4. You get your DEX bonus (retaining DEX as the thing that makes you harder to hit with armor), proficiency, and another 2 for the shield. Our sample Level 1 guy is 1d20+6 in this case, picking up 2 for each.

The DC of the incoming attack doesn’t change – about 17 for the Level 1 attacker and 22 for the Level 17 one. In theory, you want about the same as dodge, but maybe a little better. So I’ll pick option 4, and retain DX.

Parry


Again, this one is going to be similar, with proficiency counting to your ability to parry. However, for this one, I’m sorely tempted to allow STR to be the dominant factor here, since it’s your STR that gives you bonuses to hit when attacking, and so perhaps it should also give bonuses to parry.

That would make our Level 1 guy parry (with STR 16) at 1d20+5. That means his best defense would be a block if he carries a shield, second best is a parry, and third is dodge. Not unintuitive for a STR-based fighter.

Damage Resistance


A bog-standard longsword will do 1d8+2 in one hand for our level 1 guy, and 1d10+2 in two hands. If that has to (say) punch through armor before it does injury . . . well, that’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax.

We’re not going crazy here – no calculations of armor thickness. I’d just start with the native AC of the armor – 10. So hide will only remove one point of damage from an attack, while full plate will provide 8 points of protection.

Clearly, this begs for a modifier to the hit roll to aim for chinks in armor, which might (say) halve the damage resistance, rounded down.

The implication there, though, is that instead of doing 1d8+2 for 3-10 HP per hit, against our guy with the standard chain shirt (AC 13, or in this case 3 points of protection), he’ll do slightly less, 0-7 points, but 90% of his blows will still be telling. Against more serious armor, like plate, he’s looking at 0-2 HP of penetrating damage per hit, and 75% of his swings will be nullified.

I’m guessing you’d want to cut HP in half, roughly, to keep the fights from taking forever.

Parting Shot

Why would you ever do this rather than just play GURPS or some other system with active defenses? 

Well, for one, D&D-type games are the #1 force in the tabletop RPG market (though other kinds of games, like card games, are likely even bigger). So if you want a system nearly everyone plays, you’re into D&D, Pathfinder, and the OSR. 

The other reason, of course, is because it might be fun. One of the nice things about playing Dungeon Fantasy with GURPS is that you get more options on both attack and defense. The game is very interesting from a tactical perspective. You can go all-in on your attacks, sacrificing your defenses to try and strike home accurately. You can do the same thing and trade off defenses for a really hard hit. You can aim for various hit locations. You can retreat bit by bit and hold a foe at bay with a long-reach weapon.

Some of these things you can do in D&D, but many you cannot. While the games I play in that are helmed by +Erik Tenkar and +Ken H are outstanding fun, I do miss some of the cool things I could choose to do with GURPS that take combat beyond “I hit him with my sword again for 8HP more damage.”

I also really like not just sitting there when attacked. Yeah, it’ll slow down the game by making every contest two or three times as long from a rolling dice perspective. Every time the GM or player rolls a notional hit, you have to defend (or not – there needs to be an option and a benefit to not defending), then roll damage, subtract armor DR. I’m used to that in GURPS, and I feel it enhances my game experience rather than detracting from it. 

Personally, I really like the agency. I also like that the quality of the hit in the concept presented above matters. The better you roll, the harder it is for the foe to defend. 

Obviously it would need tons of testing – but I started out wondering if you can map the attack-defend-damage paradigm onto D&D, and whether or not it’s a good idea, it seems plausible and not inherently game-breaking off the bat.

One-Step Opposed Resolution


I had a funny feeling this would be true, and it is. My reliance on 10 as a base DC for both attack and defend allows me to write the following:

Hit occurs: 1d20+Attack Bonuses > 10, or 1d20+Attack Bonuses – 10 > 0

Defense Successful: 1d20+Defense Bonuses > 10 + 1d20+Attack Bonuses -10

Defense Successful: 1d20+Defense Bonuses > 1d20 + Attack Bonuses

No surprise there. It’s a contest. The only caveat is if your attack or defense roll inlcuding the bonus is less than 10 (the base DC for most of this stuff), you fail anyway. 

So the sequence, without the math, would simply be:

Attacker rolls his to-hit roll: 1d20+Bonuses; Defender simultaneously rolls his chosen defense: 1d20+Bonuses. 

  • If Attack roll < 10, you miss.
  • If Attack roll < Defense roll, you miss.
  • If Attack roll > 10, defense roll is <10, you hit
  • If attack roll > 10, Attack Roll > Defense Roll, you hit

This combines well with +Peter V. Dell’Orto‘s idea in the comments, since Dodge gives advantage (roll twice, pick the best) to the Defender, while an All-Out attack would give advantage to the attacker, and rather than have them somehow cancel out, you can just use the rules independently.

In Monteporte 44, the session began and ended with animated discussions on the rules for attunement to magical weapons. +Rob Conley had created a chart or an excel file listing all the weapons that required attunement from the DMG, and we played around with the concept a bit. We all, I think, liked the general concept of attunement, but were all equally bothered by some of the implications. In addition, since Monteporte was migrated over from a game with different assumptions than went into D&D5, there were many more magic items than seemed typical for a D&D5 party.

Attunement (DMG pp. 136-138)


The basic concept behind attunement is simple. To use a weapon with magical properties in a magical way, you have to spend a period of time – a short rest – bonding with the item in an appropriate way. If you don’t do so, the items functions like a normal, non-magical item of that type, but no nifty stuff can be generated from it. A Sword of Sharpness might act like a regular sword and would cut things just fine, but no other magical abilities would be present, and I’m not even sure it’d damage creatures that are only damaged by magical weapons – the text seems to suggest not. A suit of plate armor that requires attunement would still give you AC 18 for wearing it, but whatever powers it has would not be available to you until attunement is complete. A wand or ring, which otherwise serves no purpose than to give you certain powers, is basically useless. Maybe you could use it as a napkin holder or a stir stick?


Limits on items


The biggest thing that the DMG rules hit you with is that you cannot be attuned to more than three items at a time. Period, done . . . see you later. So you can’t (for example) wear ten Rings of Protection, one on each finger, and another couple on your toes. Firstly, you can’t usually wear multiple of any given item, but also, three is the limit, and the limit shall be  three. Not two, unless proceeding directly to three, etc.

This makes any given player decide what she wants to be equipped with, and since you can only detune-attune to an item with a short rest, you can’t just swap out inventory slots and always get the benefit of the good stuff. So you have to prepare. It’s not quite as restrictive as spell slots and long rests, but it’s there to make you think about what you’re doing.

What requires attunement


The magic item lists speak to what requires attunement – sometimes by a particular class – and what does not. There definitely seems to be a pattern to it, and some very useful stuff does not require attunement. 

Let’s start with some examples:

Basic Magical Weapons and Armor: Your basic +2 Mace or longsword, or +1 Chain Mail, or +3 half-plate does not require attunement. OK.

Mace of Disruption: Requires attunement. If you smack a fiend or the undead, you do extra radiant damage. If the critter has fewer than a certain number of HP, it must make a saving throw or be destroyed outright. The foes of the affected type are afraid of you. Also, the weapon glows if you hold it.

Mace of Smiting: +1 damage, more against constructs. If you roll a 20, you get extra damage, and can destroy constructs on a lucky roll. Does not require attunement.

Immovable Rod: Hey, the thing doesn’t move. Ever. Does not require attunement.

Gloves of Thievery: Provides a bonus to Sleight of Hand and DEX checks while wearing them. Does not require attunement.

Most any Cloak of X: Protection, Elvenkind, Invisibility. All of these require attunement, but . . . 

Cloak of the Manta Ray: Allows you to breathe underwater, and swim pretty fast. There’s another item like this that makes a bubble of air around your head. Neither require attunement.

What’s the Common Theme: The key bit here seems to be that if the item is magical because of itself, such as magic armor, it does not require attunement. If the item has powers that only affect the victim or the environment – that is, the magic is outwardly directed – it does not require attunement. But if the thing is basically casting a spell or giving its blessing to the user – something that if malign would be resisted by a saving throw – then you need to attune to it. 

It’s a fine line. The Cloak of Protection is just a cloak, it’s not particularly sturdy. But even it it is sturdy, the bonus to saving throws impacts the wearer as if it were a spell. That requires attunement. The Manta Ray cloak and the bubble-head charm (whatever it is) probably work their magic on the water and air around you, not you. They don’t bestow gills, they create a space of breatheable air.

I have no explanation for the Gloves of Thievery. I’d probably force you to attune to them, but perhaps the skill/DEX boost provided is actually a spell that impacts whatever you’re working on, not you. 

Basic magical swords are just magical. The Mace of Smiting is totally outwardly directed. The Mace of Disruption . . . seems like the mace of smiting, but makes creatures afraid of you (not the mace) and casts light. I suspect it’s the fear thing that turns the tables.

Armor that’s just magical is simply better made and enchanted. That’s inherent to the item. But if it also provides extra spell-like abilities, that requires attunement. 

Anything that requires conscious activation seems to require attunement.

House Rules?

Wouldn’t be a blog – specifically my blog – without the tinkering. So, here we go. What could we do to tweak out what’s basically a good concept?

More Awesome is More Awesome


The first one is easy. Allow the number of magical items to which you can attune vary by character level. Specifically, something like “you may attune to item equal to your proficiency bonus” would allow two items for beginners, but up to six at very high levels. Another would be you may attune to one item plus half your proficiency bonus. That’s still two items at low level, but four at high levels. 

In any case, items tend to grow with power at high levels, so another way might be a slot system. Each rank from Common through Legendary is given an effective number of slots: say 1 for Common, 5 for Legendary. You might get a number of slots equal to 1 plus your proficiency bonus, so slots vary from 3 to 7. So you can attune to seven Common items at very high level, or one Legenary item and two Common ones. Or two Uncommon and one Rare. Still limiting, but if you really want to wear seven common items instead of carrying around that Vorpal Sword . . . 

Partial Powers


Not attuning to an item having it behave as completely mundane seems off to me. Of course, that thought was started by Ken thinking that any item of +2 bonus or higher, including armor and weapons, requires attunement. I was thinking that in that particular case, the weapon or armor would still be magical, just provide no bonus. So not attuning to said Vorpal Sword would give you a magical longsword which could damage creatures that are only harmed by magical weapons (if such exist anymore in 5e), but would not suddenly decaptiate anyone.

Gotta Fight, for the Right . . . 


One thing that would be interesting for non-attuned weapons would be that yes, you can still use them, but you have to force the item to obey. You’d need to make some sort of saving throw, and I’m thinking INT, WIS, CHA rather than the physical stuff – basically willpower – in order to activate the item’s powers. 

In fact, one interesting thing would be to have attunement be a gradual process. Each short rest spent attuning would give you a bonus to the roll to master or attune to the item. You have to successfully use the item in order to claim your next bonus. Eventually, your roll will be high enough that you automatically beat the item’s DC. At that point, you’re attuned permanently unless you voluntarily switch it out – then you have to start again.

That would make it a bit of a process – and narratively interesting – to get to know a weapon or armor or magical device. If the process were intersting/onerous enough, there’s a barrier to switching out.

Naturally, you’d want the DC to go up with item power. So maybe if we use the level analogy above, the DC might be 10 plus twice the slots. So a Common magical item would be DC 12 for mastery, a Legendary one would be DC 20.

Parting Shot

Attunement brings a very cool dynamic to equipping magical items in D&D5. The core concept is very good, and it forces you to be choosy about what items and powers you can have. It keeps the focus, to some extent, on the character rather than the gear – though some of the Legendary items are truly badass, so there is always going to be a certain cache to having that Hammer of Thunderbolts paired with the Girdle of Giant Strength, which is also good.

Tuning the attunement rules also provides knobs for campaign-specific flavor. This is also good.

We’ll see what Ken decides to do with it, but I can certainly see options.