I think my first and only trip to GenCon was in 1994 or something. It was still in Milwaukee. West End Games was there, and I got to see Timothy Zahn and the WEG designers talk about Star Wars. Was cool.

Now, many (too many) years later, I’m GenCon bound again. I am kinda losin’ my mind about it.

First, the good: I’m playing in the Dungeon Fantasy RPG first-game experience with Sean Punch. That was a Kickstarter reward, and I expect it to be a hoot.

Next, the freakout. And while normally I’m good with crowds and pressure, this feels different.

  1. I’m a member of the IGDN and working the booth. I’m hoping that goes well, although there are things about it that are not optimal, it’ll be a good way to interact with a ton of folks coming by the booth, pitch my and others’ stuff, and see how things go.
  2. I’m running two games, the Grappling Smackdowns.
  3. The adventure I will run isn’t quite done yet. And I realized how much stuff I’d IDEALLY like to have to run a game (maps, tokens, lots of dice, all sorts of stuff) and how much I rely on my computer to run games these days.
  4. It’s been a while since I’ve GM’d at all; it’s been a while since I’ve GM’d 5e or Dragon Heresy in playtest, and that was with a very well-trusted group.
  5. I’m on a panel for the first time ever. We’ll see how that goes.

Anyway, I’m sure this will be a wonderful experience yadda yadda yadda. But my demo session isn’t nearly as complete as I want it to be (of course, I would have ideally finished it a month ago an playtested it eight times with eight groups), and my not-GenCon/not-writing schedule is packed today and tomorrow.

So . . . feelin’ queasy.

I’m working through my Grappling Smackdown scenario here, and setting the DCs for various tasks is a thing. I wanted to make a table to quickly inform me of roughly how hard something might be, so I figured I’d share the results. This isn’t a revelation, but it’s useful to me so it might be useful to you.

One useful tidbit from the post on The Standard Array: Joe Human PC with the standard array and who is proficient in a given task will sport a 13.5 attribute as a median, and of course have a +2 proficiency bonus. This makes the average starting boosts to the die rolls about +3.5.

I’ve picked out some example DCs. Obviously moving the DC up or down a point changes the odds of success (on the average) by 5%.

DC 6

At this level, a potted plant that isn’t proficient in the skill has a 50% chance of noticing something or accomplishing a task. I’m having to significantly question why bother rolling at all here. It’s a level that might get interesting if due to unfavorable terrain or darkness or something everyone gets disadvantage.

DC 8

A first level, proficient character with a 10 ability score will still succeed 75% of the time, or a non-proficient character with a 14, a solid but not exceptional DX, for example. This is a good level for a simple task which requires some talent or expertise to get through, but by and large will be a speed bump. Even my potted plant, above (-5 ability score, not proficient) if allowed a roll will succeed on a 13 or higher, 40% of the time.

DC 11

This is still an entry level task, where a completely non-proficient average guy can succeed 50% of the time. The median starting human PC will be succeeding on this by rolling an 8, so 65% chance of success. There’s only a 10% chance of failure for a typical proficient 10th level PC operating in the expert zone. A DC 11 means that it’s still expected most folks will do this well, but the odds of failure for the uninitiated are high.

At DC 11 and DC 12, a non-proficient character rolling against one of their lowest two ability scores (9-11 as a human) will more or less have a 50% chance of success. So it’s the dividing line for “requires some sort of atypical ability or advantage to succeed better than half the time.” Atypical for PCs, that is.

DC 14

Odds of a median first through fourth level PC who is proficient in the skill failing this roll is about 50%. At this level if you’re positing (say) a forked path for adventurers of 1st through 4th level (+2 proficiency), you’re basically saying “flip a coin.” I feel this is a pretty important DC level, as it sets the boundaries for making decisions in adventures. Want your “secret pathway” to come up about half the time? That’s about a DC 14 check . . . but you better be darn sure you have it in your mind that if everyone is allowed a roll, half the median party will fail, and half will succeed, assuming their attributes and skills are spread around a bit.

Anything harder than DC 14 will require advantage, high attributes, and high proficiency to make it a cake-walk. For example, a +4 bonus and +4 proficiency, given as a 10th level character with an 18 or 19 ability score, will still fail this check 25% of the time, although if they have expertise or can eke out advantage from somewhere, they’ll only fail if they crit.

DC 17

Now you’re into telling the GM and PCs you expect them to fail. A first level PC will need to roll 14 or higher to succeed here, and even our hypothetical +8 bonus 10th level proficient character will need to roll 9 or higher (60%). An untrained person using their “dump stat” of (say) 9 or 10 will have a 75-80% failure rate here. Only a true expert (has Expertise in the skill) at high proficiency with an outstanding ability score will be looking at this as trivial.

DC 17, though, is also the level where your low-level party expert (+2 proficiency, +4 in their chosen skill at 4th level due to an ability score improvement) has a 50% chance of success. So much as DC 11 or 12 is the dividing line for making it hard for the unskilled, DC 17 is the line above which only the truly exceptional will succeed more than they fail.

DC 21

Now you’re just being mean. You need +5 proficiency, +5 attribute score, and you have a 50% chance of making this. It’s the break-even for high-level, high-skill “this is still hard” tests. At low level, you’re saying “only a crit will get you here, and only if you have a bonus, at that.” Again, one has to ask why bother unless it’s something that you think the PCs might try but it’ll be pretty silly. Well, yes, you could leap the chasm, but it’s DC 21 . . . chances of success are low.

Parting Shot

So, hopefully this will be of use as a quick reference, if nothing else. Good ability score bonuses to keep in mind are probably +0 (dump stat), +1.5 (median starting character), +3 (expert starting character), and +5 (fully developed unless you’re breaking the 20-maximum rule, as some classes do). Proficiencies are +2 (starting), +4 (mid-level), and +6 (pinnacle). Figure out how likely you want success to be, and adjust from there. Ergo, a handy table. Well, handy for me.

Ability Score Proficiency 25% Success 50% success 75% Success
0 2 18 13 8
0 4 20 15 10
0 6 22 17 12
1.5 2 19.5 14.5 9.5
1.5 4 21.5 16.5 11.5
1.5 6 23.5 18.5 13.5
3 2 21 16 11
3 4 23 18 13
3 6 25 20 15
5 2 23 18 13
5 4 25 20 15
5 6 27 22 17

About a week until GenCon, so what’s kickin’ in the hopper at Gaming Ballistic, LLC?

Dungeon Grappling and the Grappling Smackdown

To date, other than the 300 or so Kickstarter copies of Dungeon Grappling, I’ve moved 87 more via DriveThruRPG, of which nine were physical product. I’ve also sold 20 through my website, with a much higher fraction  (50%) procuring physical copies. My participation with the Indie Game Designer’s Network has moved a few more physical books (four, I believe). I have not sold a single copy through Amazon CreateSpace, and given how much of a pain it was to re-do the layout to their specs for active text and bleed (very large pain, with no help unless you want to pay them for a consult), I may reconsider doing that again. The print quality of CS did not blow me away, though it was a lot cheaper per copy than DriveThru. Case by case basis, I guess.

The Kickstarter itself broke even by the time all was said and done. I made a great looking book with solid rules content, paid for it all, and got it all out on time. I then ordered $662 worth of inventory. My revenue has been just north of $900, I think – which means that overall, Gaming Ballistic made about $300 in profit on a project basis.

I am, of course, substantially in the red as a company, because of things like paying for InDesign, hosting, and the remarkably non-trivial money of my own that has gone into Dragon Heresy in particular.

Still: Dungeon Grappling’s all-in profitability is on the order of 5% on a project basis.

I am still of the opinion that the Dungeon Grappling rules are very good for what they do, or at least the least-bad option of any I’ve encountered (unless as with many groups, you simply ignore grappling, which is the ultimate in rules-light play, I guess).

Which brings me to the Grappling Smackdown.  Continue reading “Gaming Ballistic Update and GenCon Grappling Smackdown”

Monster Monday again. This time with a repurposed Invisible Stalker, an elemental of vengeance.

While some elementals are brought for benign reasons to the Realms of the Field, the Invisible Stalker is always brought for one purpose: to hunt and kill some quarry.

The invisible stalker is a limited form of air elemental, but has sacrificed some of its cousin’s offensive power (the whirlwind attack) for true invisibility, except for the exact moment it attacks. Even then, it is a DC 15 perception check to see the “thickening” of the air that occurs when the creature uses its melee attack.

It is the attack itself that is visible (and very audible!), however, and once it moves away from the target, it becomes invisible again.

Stalkers are not always summoned to evil intent, but they are always brought to the Realms of the Field for lethal intent. Unlike many other creatures, an Invisible Stalker will not stop attacking its target until it has reached more than double its wound maximum—it beats its target until the stalker is defeated or the foe is broken and dead on the ground.

Medium elemental, neutral

Speed 50 ft., fly 50 ft. (hover)

16 19 14 10 15 11
 +3  +4  +2 0  +2 0
Defenses   Wound Thresholds
Threat DC 14   Morale Injury KO Death
Hit DC 25 0-4 5-8 9-17 18+
DR 0 Control Thresholds
Vigor 104 Grab Grapple Restr. Incap.
Vigor Dice 16d8+32 0-5 6-10 11-20 21+


Proficiency +3

Skills. Perception +8, Stealth +10

Damage Resistances. Bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks

Damage Immunities. Poison

Condition Immunities. Exhaustion, grappled, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned, prone, restrained, unconscious

Senses. Darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 18

Languages. Auran, understands Common but doesn’t speak it

Challenge 6 (2,300 XP)

Invisibility. The stalker is invisible.

Faultless Tracker. The stalker is given a quarry by its summoner. The stalker knows the direction and distance to its quarry as long as the two of them are on the same realm within Yggdrasil. The stalker also knows the location of its summoner.


Multiattack. The stalker makes two slam attacks.

Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 2d6+3 thunder damage.

In Wednesday’s post, plus others, I mused on shields, and how actively they’re used. Thinking about DnD5e, and therefore Dragon Heresy as well, how can we model this, if we wanted to?


In a way, this is the easiest. The options are fairly straight-forward.

Protection Plus

The Protection fighting style allows giving an incoming attack disadvantage so long as it’s not directed at you. It costs you your reaction. OK, well, if you’re going to spend your reaction, you should benefit. So just extend it. Spend your reaction, and you can give one incoming attack disadvantage, so long as it’s directed at a target within five feet of your location. This includes yourself.

So between the +2 you get for just being proficient with a shield and the +5 (ish) you’d get for opting to stick your shield in your foe’s face, suddenly shields no longer suck so long as you’re using it actively. So actively, in fact, that you can’t make opportunity attacks or do all sorts of other things that come by spending your reaction.

I’m sure this is a house rule already in use all over the place, but it seems logical. Personally, I might allow the protection action to apply to yourself as a matter of being proficient with the shield; to use it for others provides the style. Or, perhaps, you can “protect” a fellow combatant by using your bonus action, and so long as you are within five feet of that creature, the first attack sent their way is at disadvantage. This does not use up your own reaction.

Obviously both would need playtesting. But shields would be very, very desirable here.


The dueling fighting style gives you more damage when you’re only using one weapon, but the other hand can use a shield.

Two-weapon fighting is for things like dual-dagger, and shortsword and dagger: two light weapons unless you take a Feat that’s in the PHB but not the SRD which allows you to fight with (say) rapier and dagger, or katana and wakisashi.

But what about aggressive sword-and-board? Let’s see how far we can get by just bastardizing the text.

Shield-Weapon Fighting
When you take the Attack action and attack with a light melee weapon that you’re holding in is being wielded with one hand, you can use a bonus action to attack with a different light melee weapon a shield that you’re holding in the other hand. You don’t add your ability modifier to the damage of the bonus attack, unless that modifier is negative. A medium shield strikes for 1d6 damage. You must be proficient with shields to take this fighting style.

Strikethrough is removed text; italics are added.

See above about being able to impose disadvantage on one attack directed at a shield-wielder by spending your reaction. Much like the Two-Weapon Fighter Feat allows you to add both the ability bonus and to use not-light weapons, there should probably be a version for Shield-Weapon fighting.

Either that, or simply let “a different light melee weapon” be appended with “a shield.” This would be best if 5e included a buckler-sized shield (say, at +1 to AC) that was 2 lbs and considered a light weapon/armor, and then the medium shield would be considered a not-light version.

Note: allowing a buckler to be actively used to induce disadvantage on one attack, at the cost of spending your reaction, but give no AC bonus, that is, +0 to AC, but allows this use of the reaction, would be a good way to go here as well.

Another way to go would be to allow the primary weapon to be either light or finesse weapons, so that Two-Weapon fighting would include sword-and-buckler or Florentine sword-and-dagger, but you’d need the feat to do shield-and-longsword, flail, battleaxe, or shield-and-spear (which is versatile, not finesse).

That’s not bad either, and might be preferred so one doesn’t waste a feat/style to mimic one of the more popular cinematic and realistic fighting methods!

Parting Shot

One has to be careful about mucking about with fundamental stuff in a deeply playtested game such as 5e. Tweaking bounded accuracy or changing fundamental assumptions of how certain things work (or don’t) can ripple through with some pretty big unintended consequences.

Still, advantage/disadvantage is not considered to be breaking such things, and it already exists, in a way, for the Protection fighting style for others. There’s really nothing between +2 to AC for being proficient with a shield, and the Dodge action which is a total defense that gives disadvantage on all attacks thrown at you.

Allowing being proficient with a shield to give the benefits of a dodge to a single attack by spending what seems to be one’s precious reaction hopefully shouldn’t break much. It will give a boost to shields that makes them more useful, which I like a lot. But they’re still vulnerable to multiple attacks by one or many foes – they can’t be everywhere.

I’ll have to review my Dragon Heresy manuscript. I do some cool things with shields in that ruleset, but I wonder if some of the ideas I’ve had here should either be added, or even replace some of the existing concepts.

For those coming in from Dimicator: welcome, and thanks for visiting! My stats rather firmly reflect a deluge of traffic thanks to Roland’s Facebook share. For those looking for other stuff:

More on shields
My experiences starting to get into viking-style martial arts with Ásfólk:

And welcome to all!

Forget All You Know

Roland Warzecha has done it again.

Sure, he’s a master of sword-and-buckler play, so it’s possible that the style being seen in the Facebook video (with a longer, 20min version available if you’re one of his Patrons, which I am) is playing to his strengths and interests.

It’s also likely and/or possible, as he does note in the video, that formation use and dueling use are somewhere between mildly and spectacularly different.

Still, most RPG fighting is basically dueling. One-on-one or many-on-one fights where the primary goal is not politics by other means, but surivival, food, or loot.

But the very, very active shield use seen in my viking-style fighting, in sword-and-buckler, and now with heater shields is unlike anything I’d seen before, and very, very unlike what the typical RPG is telling you.

Consider: a bucker is going to be 1-1.5kg (2-3 lbs or so); a properly made viking shield of historical thickness is parchment on top of wood that will average maybe 4.5mm thick (7mm near the boss, 2mm near the edges was not uncommon; 1mm edge wrap made the actual edge about 4mm). It will probably be 3-4kg (6-9 lbs, mostly in the 6-7.5 range). The heater shields Roland and his partner are using in that video are on the order of 3kg as well.

What does D&D state for a “medium” shield? Six pounds, or about 3kg. GURPS lists a light medium shield in Low-Tech at 7 lbs, which is likely about right for Viking shields, but lists a heater shield at 13 lbs. For this one, I trust Roland – he physically measured and reproduced a very well-preserved period shield.

So these are lightweight pieces of wood. And they’re definitely more than +2 to AC or +2 Defense Bonus and the ability to Block, rather than just parry.

What I did not appreciate

There are things that I just didn’t appreciate before I started training in viking fighting and associating with folks like Roland.

The shield is always moving. I guess it sort of figured, but mostly it seemed from entertainment media that basically the shield just sits there and you hide behind it. That’s just not how I’ve been trained for it, though of course I haven’t seen, practiced, or read about all styles of shield use.

The shield is the primary weapon. When fighting to not die, as opposed to score points or get in the first hit, your weapon is secondary, and mostly it’s secondary as a defensive line. In GURPS terms, we train to almost always make defensive attacks (Martial Arts, p. 100) and always have the shield and sword arranged so that if the shield fails, the sword is in the way. I suppose that’s still just a Parry roll, but you’d make it at the better of Block or Parry, +DB of the shield and +1 for the Defensive Attack. I use my shield against my opponent every moment of a match/sparring session/training drill. The same doesn’t always hold for the sword.

Light Infantry is always on the move. You’re always trying to keep yourself at shield-to-shield distance, and because of that, and because your one-handed sword or axe basically reaches to the limits of, or maybe a bit past, the shield edge, if you can’t touch it with the edge of your shield, you can’t touch it with your sword, either. And the principle of not-dead and fuhlen says that if you feel or see your foe coming in, you back up, move sideways, or otherwise preserve distance.

The shield is always in the way. Less so for heater shields and bucklers, but the “cone of exclusion” is really impressively large for both. Held in one hand at full extension, even a 12-18″ buckler protects an awful lot of your body by denying angles of attack. More so with a heater, kite, and three-foot-diameter viking shield too. Yes, you absolutely can stab someone in the shin with a lunged spear that goes under the shield – I spent a rather long time in a training class the other week doing exactly that to a fellow student – but that just confirms battlefield finds with lots of leg wounds. Even so: shields are very hard to get around.

The shield and the weapon are one. You use them both, together, all the time. On the attack, the shield forces an opening, grapples for position and superiority (I use the word grapples very deliberately here), and is almost always the lead entry. Once an opening is established and confirmed (by eye, by line, by movement, by experience), the sword or axe leaves its secondary defensive role and assumes the role of man-killer.

RPGs are Weapon-Centric

Not telling anyone something they don’t know here. But most of the rules favor the “I strike!” part of it. Maybe that’s a legacy of wargames (and yes, CHAINMAIL and the rules that influenced Dungeons and Dragons), and safety-first tournament rules. This is true of both armed and unarmed styles. I can point to my former Korean Kumtoogi – the allowed striking surfaces are the top of the head on the face-mask (easily armored), the belly (easily armored), the wrists (easily armored), the throat (easily armored), and the thighs (easily armored, if unique to the Hwa Rang Do style with a patented, I believe, leg piece). If my wife and I are sparring, and she hits me first, and I hit her second, she gets the point, even if I would have killed or injured her as well.

Anyway, point is, you spend your time at the table thinking “how can I do unto the other guy,” not “how am I using my shield offensively this turn, and do I have an opening?”

It might be realistic, but it’s less fun. Hit Points (or Vigor in Dragon Heresy) are mostly designed to model all of that give and take and defensive action anyway.

So we concentrate on weapons, so we can have fun. That might make a poor simulation, but it makes a good fighting game.

Still, it’ll be fun to think about what mods might be needed to turn the balance to shields a bit. These days, if I only have a one-handed sword, and am facing someone with sword-and-shield, that’s a real issue for me. I’m not so sure that’s true in D&D or even GURPS.

In D&D, the shield mostly gets you +2 to AC in Fifth Edition. The Protection fighting style allows imposing disadvantage on an attack roll if the attack isn’t directed at you. Which is interesting, as that means that Protection fighting style says you can use your reaction to impose the rough equivalent of a -5 to hit for someone else, but only a fairly passive +2 to AC for yourself. Well.

In GURPS, weapon and shield skills are usually lop-sided in favor of the weapon, because there’s a lot more you can do with the weapon (deceptive attack, hit location come immediately to mind) than the shield. And even using the shield as a weapon, it does thrust, while even a one-handed sword does swing.

In general, you’d want an option where in either case, choosing to go defensive with the shield makes it impressively hard to get in on the other guy, without necessarily eliminating ALL offensive options.

Hrm. That gives me an idea. (scribble scribble scribble)

I’m not sure I’ll run out and change my own games necessarily. I’m not necessarily recommending you change yours. But I was just struck by how little the dueling-style fight referenced in Roland’s video resembles any RPG combat I’ve ever experienced. Of course, my experience isn’t the entire world, nor is that style of fighting the only one. In particular, full plate harness was quite mobile, insanely well protected, and probably led to very different tactics when sharp/lethal weapons were in hand. Likewise, true formation fighting with heavy infantry – phalanx or legionary fighting – is going to be very different.

But I’ll end where I began: formation fights of heavy infantry don’t come up much in my four to eight person parties. I know some folks get a lot of mileage out of forming a wall of battle, with spearmen striking over the heads of the first rank. I envy those groups with the discipline to pull that off. I do.



The roper is thought to be a result of what happens when a darkmantle, it’s smaller but similar-looking relative, fails to cleave into two creatures as part of its normal maturation process. When that happens, it continues to grow, and will eventually sprout tendrils. It will devour any darkmantles in the local area, and mature into a roper.

The roper is a large, pebbly-looking creature that mimicks a cave formation, either hanging from the ceiling or sprawling on the ground. It is mostly indistinguishable by normal vision from its rocky surroundings (even the dwarves cannot easily discern a motionless roper). It’s tendrils are usually at rest looking like stalactites or stalagmites.

It is large and ungainly, slow to move. It senses vibrations in the rocks and air, and when a prospective victim moves into range, it will lash out with its tendrils, grappling and reeling in its victim so it can gnash it with teeth that look like a quartz formation.

It is remarkably intelligent for a monstrosity, and calculating in what victims it will choose to attack—it is an evil creature, not an unaligned beast. If it perceives that a potential victim is very dangerous, it will not attack.

Large monstrosity, neutral evil

Speed 10 ft., climb 10 ft.

18 8 17 7 16 6
 +4 -1  +3 -2  +3 -2
Defenses Wound Thresholds
Threat DC 9 Morale Injury KO Death
Hit DC 20 0-7 8-15 16-31 32+
DR 7 Control Thresholds
Vigor 93 Grab Grapple Restr. Incap.
Vigor Dice 11d10+33 0-6 7-12 13-25 26+

*natural armor

Proficiency +3

Skills. Perception +6, Stealth +5

Senses. darkvision 60 ft., tremorsense 60 ft., passive Perception 16


Challenge 5 (1,800 XP)

False Appearance. While the roper remains motionless, it is indistinguishable from a normal cave formation, such as a stalagmite.

Foe Sense. The roper seems to be able to detect the relative strength of its foe. Upon detecting potential prey, it makes a Perception check with a DC equal to 18 – the potential victim’s Vigor Dice. If the check fails, it will perceive it as a meal and attack no matter what. If it succeeds, it will attack creatures of up to 5 Vigor Dice and fewer. It does this check once for each potential victim, as they come into detection range.

Grasping Tendrils. The roper can have up to six tendrils (1d4+2 at the start of combat). Each tendril can be attacked (Threat DC 20; 10 vigor; immunity to poison and psychic damage). Destroying a tendril deals no damage to the roper, which can extrude a new or replacement tendril on its next turn. A tendril can also be broken if a creature takes an action and succeeds on a DC 15 Strength check against it.

Spider Climb. The roper can climb difficult surfaces, including upside down on ceilings, without needing to make an ability check.


Multiattack. The roper makes four attacks with its tendrils, uses Reel, and makes one attack with its bite.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 4d8+4 piercing damage.

Extrude Tendril. The roper extrudes a new tendril if it is below the maximum number it can control (six).

Drag. The roper executes a drag attack, pulling a grappled creature straight towards it. If the Roper wins a contest of Athletics, it pulls the target 10′ closer to it, divided by the target’s size modifier. If the roper wins by 10, the base distance increases to 15′, and 20′ if the contest is won by 20 or more. If a target ends within reach of the Bite attack, the roper will follow up with a Bite as soon as possible!

Tendril. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 50 ft., one creature. Hit: 2d6+4 control per tendril, and the roper can’t use the same tendril on another target without first letting go.

It’s Monster Monday again, and for this morning, in honor of the allergies that are making my life a tetch more difficult than I’d like to imagine, I’m offering up a few of the various fungus-like creatures from Dragon Heresy.

These are less “monsters” then they are hazards. They are not sentient and they’re just aware enough to cause adventurers trouble – but they make great obstacles and barriers to overcome, and will naturally come to populate, and even dominate, the dark, dank, and magically-enhanced places of the world.


Natural fungi play the role of nature’s decomposers, and are quite different than the usual plants. They play a vital role in any natural ecosystem, and when such a system is naturally enhanced by, and perfused with, magical energy, odd things can happen.


The shrieker might be a naturally-evolving organism, or it may have been purposefully created by a druid as a warning mechanism. They can be used as an alarm system in any dark place that can support their growth, and will react to any unnatural or mobile light source, or the presence of any moving creature. Their cry is piercing and loud, but not hazardous to those with normal hearing. Those with particulary sensitive ears (such as cats and dogs) might face a turn of stun if caught in such a blast of sound (make a DC 15 Constitution save to avoid this effect).

The shrieker can’t be grappled effectively—it can be plucked or destroyed, but grabbing the giant mushroom won’t change its behavior. Continue reading “Monster Monday: Fungi”

Not too much going on.

It’s ComicCon (technically Wizard World Minneapolis) this weekend, and unlike most times when we spend the entire weekend there, my family was helter-skelter this weekend, with my wife in Chicago, me needing to attend a few Viking planning sessions to build curriculum for classes, and generally playing single-dad with young kids in activities. Plus the toddler/preschooler being . . . her charming self when balked.

This phase really can’t end soon enough.

Anyway, I did see minor progress on the game building front. Venture Beyond saw some discussion, and Michael continues to work art for the covers in the background. His prelim sketch and coloring work is very much in the Dungeon Grappling style of brushing, but obviously different subject material. My feedback to him was very brief, ’cause he’s on point with nearly everything. One comment about how to hold an axe (and I need to get him a reference picture) for fighting, one more about foot position when using a viking shield, and a suggestion but not a correction on a dwarf spear-tip. One comment about overall coloration. But it’s going to look good, and I can’t wait to see how the final covers turn out.

Still waiting for writing and editing on both projects.

Otherwise, it’s about time to go swoon and blush and act like a complete fanboy in front of Charisma Carpenter, and introduce my daughter(s) to Nichelle Nichols. My wife will probably have palpitations over John Barrowman (fortunately for me, he’s not his character).


It’s once again Monster Monday, and today we’ve got some monsters of the human variety for you. Between other parties of adventurers, as well as bandits and other riff-raff, early encounters in Tanalor may well be fellow humans; certainly in situations focusing on the internal politics of Torengar or the Neveri wars, they will be.


The duelist will fight for money as an enforcer or even a gladiator, but is most often found as a paid judicial champion, or the Torengarian equivalent of a lawsuit artist, pressing false injury claims and proving himself the injured party by defeating his opponent in a judicial duel (the berjast).

Medium humanoid (any race), any alignment

Speed 30 ft.


18 15 16 10 12 15
 +4  +2  +3 0  +1


Defenses Wound Thresholds
Threat DC 16* Morale Injury KO Death
Hit DC 27 0-5 6-10 11-20 21+
DR 2* Control Thresholds
Vigor 112 Grab Grapple Restr. Incap.
Vigor Dice 15d8+45 0-5 6-10 11-20 21+

*studded leather, medium shield

Proficiency +3

Saving Throws. Str +7, Dex +5, Con +6

Skills. Athletics +10, Intimidation +5

Senses. passive Perception 11

Languages. any one language (usually Common)

Challenge 5 (1,800 XP)

Brave. The duellist has advantage on saving throws against being frightened.

Brute. A melee weapon deals one extra die of its damage when the duellist hits with it (included in the attack).


Multiattack. The duellist makes three melee attacks or two ranged attacks.

Spear. Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft. and range 20/60 ft., one target. Hit: 2d6+4 piercing damage, or 2d8+4 piercing damage if used with two hands to make a melee attack.

Shield Bash. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 2d4+4 bludgeoning damage. If the target is a Medium or smaller creature, it must succeed on a DC 15 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone.

Grapple. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 1d10+4 control damage.


Parry. The duellist adds 3 to its Threat DC against one melee attack that would hit it. To do so, the duellist must see the attacker and be wielding a melee weapon.

Shield Defense. The duellist takes a blow or deflects a missile weapon with his shield. The shield has DR5, and can absorb three “hits” before it is broken. Shields have resistance to piercing damage from ammunition or light thrown weapons. The shield takes 1 hit if the damage (after resistance) is 6-10 points, 2 hits if it is 11-15 points, and is instantly destroyed if it takes 16+. Continue reading “Monster Monday: Human Opposition Sampler Pack”