A quick note, and perhaps a question.

Last game three PCs charged into combat (well, snuck into combat) and went head to head at 1st level into the face of 4:1 odds. The results were predictable.

One commenter on Twitter noted “they should have run away.”

Now, there are two ways to take this. One is that they never should have entered combat to begin with. +Tim Shorts noted that yes, this was the right call, but he’d never had a combat in the game and so wanted to see what it was like. In short, he provoked a losing battle to see what would happen.

Well, he found out. 

Edit: They found out and got dismantled with grace and graciousness. They rolled poorly, and did not complain when the orc horde came screaming down on them. So this “well, he found out” sounds way, way more pejorative than it is meant. He wanted to find out what combat was like, did find out, and we all learned about tactics and emergent behavior in the process. Even me. Or perhaps especially me.

The other way to take it was that once things started to go poorly, they should have withdrawn. I’m wondering how viable that is. I think that as long as each PC decides to run the heck away while their foes are about two moves (usually about 60′, but not always) away this might have worked. But I see no way, really, for a bunch of fighters to extract themselves from melee in the face of a determined foe, unless they have a speed advantage.

I’m not saying this is wrong. In fact, I believe that the typical battlefield archaeology reports will tell you that yeah, the majority of the casualties were taken when one side turned tail and ran. 

But it seems to me that’s darn hard to actually run away in D&D-style games unless you really plan on it beforehand. Once things are already going badly, you’re basically in it unless the foe lets you out.

Does this match your experience? Who’s been chased, killed, and eaten?

The Melee Academy series from Thursday got me thinking of alternate mechanics for disarms in D&D. The existing one is straightforward and usable. Roll a melee attack, opposed by your foe’s Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics).

But neither of those two really speak well to a disarm. If anything, a Saving Throw is almost more appropriate, but this seems like the sort of thing that should have its basis in combat skills.

In any case: the existing rule is not horribly broken, but I thought of another way to attack it.

To Disarm using a weapon:

Make a melee attack on your foe’s weapon. The hit number is 10 + DEX bonus (you get full DEX bonus even if wearing heavy armor here) + Weapon Proficiency. If you succeed, you have either struck your foe’s weapon sharply, or used your technique to bind and strip your opponent’s weapon from his grasp.

If you hit, you and your opponent both roll damage for your respective weapons (including STR or DEX, if appropriate – DEX requires a Finesse weapon). If the attacker’s damage exceeds the defender’s damage, a disarm occurs. Ties go to the defender.

If you have multiple attacks, you may certainly attempt multiple disarms against one or more weapons.

Special considerations

  • Treat a shortbow as 1d4, and a longbow as 1d6 for the purposes of resisting armed disarming attempts. You may not use a bow to attempt a disarm without an appropriate Feat.
  • Versatile weapons can use two hands to make or resist a disarm (so a longsword can roll 1d10) if a free hand is available.
  • Extra hands beyond two add +1 to the disarming “damage” roll to either resist or disarm if they can be placed on the weapon
Unarmed Disarms

Again, make a unarmed strike to punch or a Strength (Athletics) check to grapple the foe’s weapon or weapon arm. To-hit number is still 10 + DEX bonus + Weapon Proficiency. If you succeed, you have bypassed the weapon to strike or grapple the limb holding the weapon, rather than the weapon itself. 
If you hit, you and your opponent both roll damage using one die type lower than your usual hit dice (fighters do 1d8, clerics 1d6, magic users 1d4, etc). Unarmed strikes use 1 point plus the STR bonus for damage. Grapples do 1d4+STR bonus. Monks or other characters that have learned improved unarmed strikes may roll that damage instead whether striking or grappling, if it’s better.. 
If you have multiple attacks, you may certainly attempt multiple disarms against one or more weapons.
Special Considerations
  • If you miss on the attack roll when making an unarmed disarm against a weapon, your foe may make an Attack of Opporunity against your full AC including the effects of armor. In essence, he’s defending against your attack by striking your limb.
  • Treat a shortbow as 1d4, and a longbow as 1d6 for the purposes of resisting armed disarming attempts. You may not use a bow to attempt a disarm without an appropriate Feat.
  • Versatile weapons can use two hands to make or resist a disarm (so a longsword can roll 1d10) if a free hand is available.
  • Extra hands beyond two add +1 to the disarming “damage” roll to either resist or disarm if they can be placed on the weapon
Parting Shot
I like effect rolls, and I like how the better fighter in terms of both melee skill and ability to dish out damage will tend to win here. The damage roll means that if you try and disarm a great axe with a knife, the great axe will tend to win. 
On unarmed, the reliance on hit dice tends to mean that combative classes will disarm better than non-combative ones, which I like. I backed it down one die type because having Fighters with STR 18 do 5 points while striking but 1d10+4 for grappling seemed excessive, but 1d8 isn’t so bad.
If that bothers, then drop two die types, so if your hit dice are 1d6, you drop to 1 point, just like striking, but 1d10 will be 1d6, and Barbarian at 1d12 will do a mighty 1d8 when disarming. 
I was tempted to have the Grappler Feat be dealt with explicitly here. Options might include
  • Double damage on a successful hit
  • Expanded critical hit range (that might be weak sauce unless it’s very expanded)
  • Allows -5 to hit, but +10 damage for the purposes of a disarm if you attack with Strength Athletics)
As mentioned earlier, the existing rule isn’t obviously broken. But I like the nuance that this one provides. Swinging or grabbing the weapon is an exercise is striking a smallish object with a combat blow. DEX takes it out of the way, and proficiency with the weapon is a proxy for fighting skill. Damage is the power of the hit, and grappling and like techniques are strength multipliers. 
One can also see purpose-built trapping and disarming weapons coming into play here. As an example, just playing around
Sword-breaker: This weapon may be used in the off-hand using dual-wielding rules. If a bladed weapon attack misses by less than the defender’s proficiency, the defender may use his reaction to make a disarm attempt. If the sword-breaker’s damage is double or more that of the attacking weapon’s damage on the disarm roll, the attacker is disarmed and the weapon is also broken!

Yesterday during the latest Castle of Horrors GURPS session I got to experience, first-hand, the exact situation that makes some people run screaming from GURPS – or any game in which your turn is broken down into a very small segment in time.

Almost certainly, +Mark Langsdorf of No School Grognard will throw up a session summary.

Ultimately, though, what happened (so far as I can tell) was this: we set up camp after last session (which I missed) in the middle of the outer courtyard, under one of the castle’s 60′ tall walls. We set a watch and other useful things. The session opened with us getting attacked from the air by a bunch of one-to-two foot tall leprechauns who were rightfully pissed off that we’d stolen their pot of gold.

They attacked us with fire. Alchemists fire. After achieving near-perfect surprise.

The session basically went like this:

  • A period of time where it was all we could do to not die in flames
  • A (short) period of time where things were basically even, as they were nearly out of fire and spells/charms, but not entirely
  • A period of time where, for whatever reason, the tiny flying guys decided to attack our half-troll (ogre? something huge and nasty with thick skin) and could not do anything of value at all, meanwhile we were assured that nearly any hit was a fatality with us firing 7d6 firearms or shotguns loaded with buckshot at them.
  • At some point, the GM noted that the tide had turned, and it was just a matter of ammo expenditure to mop up the numerous but weak remaining foes. This is the third or fourth (third, I think) fight that has been ended this way.
However, and here was the problem, this manifested itself as my character, in the span of two hours, doing roughly the following:
  • Wake up and shout an alarm
  • Get set on fire
  • Roll on the ground and burn
  • Roll on the ground and burn
  • Roll on the ground and burn a little, and make a DX roll to put flames out (successfully)
  • Aim (it took about 90 minutes to this point)
  • Shoot
  • Aim
  • Shoot
+Kevin Smyth, one of the players, offered up that games with fast turns (like GURPS) can really be done well if you’re just whipping through options, calling them out, rapid fire.
This is exactly true. I’ve also never, not once, seen it happen. I bet +Peter V. Dell’Orto could pull it off, since he runs a pretty bare-bones DF game. But mostly, there’s a LOT of tactical chatter, option selection, and it takes players and the GM alike a while to resolve each turn. In fact, it seems to take as long to resolve each turn in this game as any other game I play. Mostly inlcuding D&D5, but the tendency for that game to default to “I hit the bad guy twice with my sword” for a lot of the group means that the game with the longer turns (in seconds of game time) tends to play pretty fast. 
I noted this before where in a S&W game we did 8 combats in three hours.
You can’t even complain that we were going that slowly in the GURPS combat above. There are five players and the GM, who was controlling at least seven adversaries (three flying bombers and four on the wall, I think). At fifteen minutes per cycle around the room, that’s about two minutes per player. Since we have some strict rules about chat and cross-talk and open mics, and a lot of what we’re doing we have to type into MapTool, that’s not awful.
Nonetheless, to spend fifteen minutes so I can stop, drop, and roll again (it takes three Ready maneuvers and a DX roll to extinguish oneself) is frustrating. It can easily be seen even among the patient as a player might suggest that in one second he can pull out a fire extinguisher while rolling out of the back of a tent while aiming his gun at a bad guy. The GM would then say (rightfully) “pick one.”
OK, I exaggerate a bit for effect, but if  you wait fifteen minutes for your turn, you want to accomplish something. 
I need to think more about this for my own games. A five or ten second clock on decision and resolution might be a way to go here. Having a queue or dual-pane thing going where you can pre-script your action during downtime might be another way to go. Because honestly, the “time dilation” effect where how much you want to do on your turn depends on how long you have to wait for your turn has been cropping up quite a bit, and not just in GURPS.
But ultimately, last night felt very frustrating for me in terms of useful and fun action per time spent, and since I’ve played other games, and GURPS games where it didn’t feel quite like that, finding concrete ways to deal with this issue seems key as both a GM and player
How have other people dealt with this when it comes up?
This is a repeat of an idea I put into a few other posts, such as my comment about Marcus the Paladin’s fighting ability as well as the Barbarian. I want to be able to refer/link to it independently.
The gist of it is: going toe to toe with a melee expert should be a bad idea. You can spend your own HP to inflict more damage on a foe when you hit them in melee.
Going face-to-face with Sir Cuisinart should really be scary. Granted, with plate and a shield, AC 20 (more with magic) is nothing to sneeze at, so they’re harder to hit. But the per-turn damage ability of fighters is really second to a lot of characters that are second-rankers. 
I was thinking that it might be interesting to allow something like a fighter to spend his own actual Hit Points for more damage. Say, 2d4 to a blow for every 5 HP you spend. You probably don’t have to limit it other than not being able to spend below 10 HP plus your CON bonus times your level – those are mostly physical toughness, not skill or grit or honed combat instinct. So Marcus could exchange HP for extra damage dice as long as he’s above 28 HP (3 for CON x 6th level + 10 HP). 
If you did want to limit it, perhaps you can only do it a number of times equal to, say, half your level plus some attribute score. Not STR, because that double-dips. CON might work, but that seems odd since those are physical HP, and this bonus damage is from skill. DEX might be fun, since honestly for heavy fighters there’s not much reason to do DEX. Well, unless you’re an archer. WIS might be a good one, as it’s the ability to notice an opening (tied to Perception). CHA makes no sense, nor does INT. Half level plus WIS? That would allow Marcus to do this five times, trading 25 HP for 10d4 damage to his foes.
I’d make you select whether or not to spend HP before you roll to hit, because I would double these damage dice on a critical hit – that means, though, that you probably lose the HP if you miss. You exerted yourself to strike the foe, but it didn’t work. 

That’s a change from the last few times I posted it, where I said you only spend HP if you succeed. I could see it either way. Sharpshooter gives -5 to hit for +10 damage, and that’s automatic if you hit. So you could do variants. Spend first and  lose them right away, but for eveyr 5 HP spent you do 3d4 instead of 2d4. Declare first, but if you miss you don’t lose 5 HP but if you hit you only do 2d4.

So Marcus might announce that he’s spending 5 HP. On a hit he would do 1d8+2d4 + 5 (8-21 HP), but on a critical hit the dice would double: 2d8+4d4+5, for 11-37 HP range. 
This would leverage a fighter’s higher HP for something other than a damage sink and pincushion, and make it quite risky to stand face-to-face with a fighter type. For that reason (and since Hunter’s Mark and Colossus Slayer stack already for archers, and give plenty of extra damage from a distance where the archer can’t get hit back) I’d make it melee only. 
Hrm. That might be a good Feat, actually. Or even a Fighting Style? Class feature for combatives, and Feat for those that might want it?
Obviously it would need playtesting.

I’ve been playing in +Rob Conley‘s Majestic Wilderlands game for a while now, and I’ve grown to like my character, Marcus. 

Still, there have been issues with how the game feels to me playing fighter-types (this is true of Swords and Wizardry as well), but looking over a few things, I’ve decided that part of the problem, if not all of it, is me. In short, system mastery has long been part of the D&D experience, and 5e is no exception. Sure, the requirements for mastery are toned down over, say, Pathfinder . . . but they’re still there.

So let’s start. It would appear my errors lie in a poor appreciation for what I can do each turn, and the duration and power of my spellcasting. Still – always good to start with the foundation.

Marcus the Paladin: The Basics


Lets start with the relevant stats:

6th Level (+3 proficiency bonus)
STR 17 (+3); DEX 12 (+1); CON 16 (+3); INT 12 (+1); WIS 14 (+2); CHA 18 (+4)
Max HP: 55 (max possible at this level would be 78)
Oath of Devotion

His equipment is top-notch. Part of a prior adventuring loot haul was a full set of +2 Plate Armor, and a looser hand with magical items than the normal 5e game seems to encourage has left him with a +2 shield and a +2 longsword as well. That makes standing to face him in melee combat look like this:

AC 24
1d20+8 to hit
1d8+5 (6-13) damage; 2d8+5 (7-21) on a critical. 
2 attacks per turn, so net 12-26 damage, 14-42 on two crits.

He also carries a non-magical longbow; that comes in handy from some of the distances we encounter, and at 1d20+4 to hit and 1d8+1 damage, twice per turn, it’s not great but not awful, either.

So in a lone fight, bereft of magical abilities, he’s going to be tough to hit at all (a 1st level fighter with a STR 18 would roll 1d20+6, hitting Marcus only 15% of the time). You’ll need a 1d20+13 to hit him 50% of the time, or probably about 1d20+9 with advantage. Marcus is a tough nut to crack with AC this high.

That being said, he’s got powers.

Passive/Always-on Abilities



By 6th level, there are things that just happen for me. 

Divine Health makes Marcus immune to disease.

Aura of Protection gives me and any friendlies within 10′ of me +4 (thanks to my CHA) to saving throws.


Available Every Turn

One thing I don’t think I fully appreciated is exactly how to get maximum advantage over the things he can do routinely. This is foolish – abilities unused are basically ignoring the benefits of grabbing a niche (a class) to begin with. 

Protection Fighting Style


This is something that doesn’t help me directly, but if a partner of mine – any friendly character – stands within five feet, I can give one attack per turn disadvantage against him by using my reaction. With a wise choice in partner (say, a rogue-type), this will make a usually lower-AC friend a lot harder to hit (non-magical studded leather tops out at AC17 if you have DEX 20).

Available Every Short Rest


A lot of my abilities can run out, but are replenished on a short rest, which means they’ll likely be available nearly every encounter, and multiple times per encounter at that.

Channel Divinity


These are the go-to abilities for each Oath type, with two abilities per Oath.

Sacred Weapon: This one’s pretty cool, and using it allows, for one minute, CHA bonus to be added to attack rolls with one specific weapon (you power-up the weapon, not the user). This does not, I don’t think, apply to damage, so much the pity. You also get 20′ radius light and the weapon counts as magical, so in the case you don’t manage to pick up a magical sword somewhere, you can still harm creatures only affected by magical weapons.

Turn the Unholy: This one has simply not come up yet in the Majestic Wilderlands. Wisdom saving throw for fiends or the undead, or they have to stay more than 30′ away from you and can’t use reactions.

Available Every Long Rest


Obviously the coolest stuff has more limits, and much of my oomph comes from things that require a night’s sleep or the equivalent to refresh. Some of them are limited in multiple ways, to boot (spell slots). Still, it’s a nifty list and bears thinking on.

Divine Sense 

Can be used 5 times in between each long rest (1+CHA modifier) and will tell me if there are celestials, fiends, or undead within 60′. Perhaps even more usefully, if an object has been consecrated or desecrated or otherwise hit with something like the hallow spell. Good for detecting the presence of things that will pose a more-than-physical challenge.

Lay on Hands 

This is the prototypical Paladin ability to heal. I can heal 30 HP per day, equivalent to about 4 healing potions (2d4+2) in Rob’s game. 5 HP worth can also cure one disease or poison. It’s not huge healing, but it’s not bad, either.

Divine Smite 

This is an ability I’ve used a lot, but it’s tied to my spell slots, so is somewhat limited. Expending a 1st level spell slot adds 2d8 to my melee damage, and a 2nd level slot is 3d8, so that’s a nice adder. Fiends or undead take an extra 1d8. So twice per day I can land a single blow that’s 4d8+5, and four times per day it’ll be 3d8+5, with an extra d8 on a crit and another vs. particularly evil creatures. The down side here is that it drains spell slots.

Oath Spells


My oath spells are always prepared, so they don’t count against my usual limit for how many spells I can know. 

Protection from Good and Evil: I have to maintain concentration to keep this one up, but for 10 minutes, a single creature that I touch cannot be charmed, frightened, or possessed by aberrations, fey, celestials, fiends, and undead. Those critters also have disadvantage when attacking that one creature. I suppose I can cast this on me as well, but given that if I’m doing this I can be broken out of my concentration by getting hit, this seems  a bit less useful than I’d like.

Sanctuary: Again, this impacts one creature. With a bonus action, for one minute my chosen target gets a bit of an out when attacked. The creature must make a Wisdom saving throw, and if it fails, he can’t attack my chosen subject with that power or ability or blow – he has to do something else. The down side is that if my chosen creature attacks or casts a harmful spell, the effects stop. So this allows a friend to . . . sit there and take it, assuming the foe continues to fail saving throws. Well, it is only a 1st level spell.


Lesser Restoration (2nd level): This one ends a condition: blinded, deafened, paralyzed, or poisoned. That’s a tough use for a 2nd level spell slot, but there you go. When you need it, you need it right then.


Zone of Truth (2nd level):  Pretty much what it sounds like. Wisdom saving throw fails, and creatures within 15′ radius can’t lie. The good news is, if impacted creatures are affected by the spell, you know it. Dodging questions is possible even if you succeed, so this makes a nice interrogation aid without being an auto-win plot-breaker.

Honestly, it’s a good thing these are always prepared, because otherwise they’re kinda lame. Protection from good/evil would be rather more interesting if it were a radius spell.

Memorized Spells


Each day I can prepare 7 spells total (4 for CHA, 3 for half my Paladin level), and cast 4 1st level spells and 2 second level. Other than the four spells I have always prepared due to my paladin-ness, I would have to choose among 13 1st level spells, and six 2nd level spells.

Even though these are available every long rest (and are thus properly part of the prior section), I’m going to treat them differently. Each day, I have to pick about 35% of the possible list to memorize, and what I choose to do will depend on what threats and challenges I expect to find in a given day. Good luck guessing, but sometimes you can choose well.

1st Level Options


The following spells are basically buffs.

  • Bless: Add +1d4 to any attack roll or saving throw for 10 rounds. Three targets.
  • Divine Favor: +1d4 damage per hit for 10 rounds. Self.
  • Heroism: One creature cannot be frightened and gains 4 temporary HP per turn for 10 rounds.

These are protection and healing.

  • Cure Wounds: 1d8+4. +1d8 for each extra level of spell slot.
  • Detect Evil and Good: 10 minutes. Detects creatures (aberrations, fey, undead, etc.) within 30′.
  • Detect Magic: 10 minutes. Detects critters or magical items within 30′. 
  • Detect Poison and Disease: 10 minutes. 30′. Does the obvious.
  • Purify Food and Drink: Does the obvious within 5′ sphere.

And these are for laying down the Holy Smack on thine enemies.

  • Command: Resisted by saving throw (Wisdom). Can’t be directly harmful to target. But Drop, Flee, Grovel, Halt, and Yield all work. More creatures at higher level.
  • Compelled Duel: This is surprisingly useful. Disadvantage on attack rolls against everyone but me so long as the target is and stays within 30′. Even if they save, the disadvantage holds, and if they don’t, they have to move to me. The disadvantage even if they save is something I missed here.
  • Searing Smite: +1d6 fire damage for the first blow, and the creature stays lit, taking 1d6 more fire damage per turn on a failed saving throw. This is for one creature, and it ends if someone puts out the flames.
  • Shield of Faith: +2 to AC for 10 minutes.
  • Thunderous Smite: On the first hit, does 2d6 thunder damage. Failed STR save means he’s knocked 10′ and prone.
  • Wrathful Smite: One hit gives 1d6 psychic damage, and on a failed Wis save is frightened.
These combat spells run a bit of a distance second to Hunter’s Mark, which is 1d6 for an hour on every blow. So these mostly take backseat to the damage-dealing capability of Divine Smite at 2d8 per hit using the same 1st level spell slots.

2nd Level Options


Buffs

  • Aid: Three targets get 5 HP and +5 HP max for 8 hours.
  • Find Steed: This summons a paladin’s mount – a celestial warhorse. It’s affected by buffing spells in addition to me at the same level. Telepathic communication, and a warhorse is kinda badass.
  • Magic Weapon: Makes a mundane weapon +1 for an hour.

Protection and Healing

  • Locate Object: Does what it says if the object was seen in close quarters (within 30′) and is currently within 1,000′ of the caster. Lasts 10 minutes.
  • Protection from Poison: For an hour, a targeted creature is cured of poison, has advantage on saving throws vs. poison, and is resistant to poison damage.

Smackdown

  • Branding Smite: 2d6 radiant damage, one time. The target is made visible if it’s invisible, and glows with subtle light.

Again, this is compared to 3d8 for the same spell slot for Divine Smite.

Parting Shot

Hrm. Well. 

I’d thought I’d been misinterpreting the spell options, but no, they’re pretty weak sauce on offense compared to Divine Smite. Given these options and seven slots (and that Rob provided me with a paladin’s mount without the spell), the 2nd level options are all lame (or highly specialized).

So, looks like mostly I’d be picking seven buffing or protection/healing spells. Mostly go-to would be

  • Bless – three allies with better chances to hit? That’s good.
  • Divine Favor – an average of 50 HP extra damage in a 10-round fight. That’s worth it.
  • Command – not always effective, but a chance to get a foe to yield without a fight is sometimes a good thing.
  • Compelled Duel – I didn’t realize that the disadvantage applies regardless. 
  • Detect Evil – always a nice ability
  • Heroism – an extra 40 HP in a long fight makes for quite a boost; if there were another fighter in the party that would be a powerful buff.
  • Searing Smite is kinda nice, in that you get repeated instances of the fire damage.
  • Shield of Faith – not for me at AC 24, but for others. At only +2 AC, this is last priority.
With a little extra prep some of the other combat spells would be good, but only if the victim/foe is known and known to be vulnerable to a particular damage type.
So I need to use Sacred Weapon more often, and also Divine Favor for long fights. Beyond that, my use of spell slots for extra damage is the right call. 
Making Spells Worth It

Some of the spells really could be cool, but probably only if they were potentially effective more than once, or slightly higher damage. Some of the effects are OK if creatures are vulnerable to it, but 2d8 is 2d8, and even double damage from (say) Wrathful Smite is less. 
None of these compare well to the extra 1d8 per turn for Collossus Slayer, plus Hunter’s Mark for 1d6 per attack. Or the extra 3d6 per turn for a rogue’s sneak attack as long as another combatant is attacking the target and within five feet. Or 8d6 for a fireball spell, though of course that is limited to spell slots – but a 6th level Sorcerer or Wizard can cast three of these, so those slots are good for a minimum of 12d6 damage (assuming a save) and 24d6 if they don’t.
Toe to toe with a melee expert should be a bad idea

This is really what I’m getting at here, and something +Peter V. Dell’Orto has remarked on before. Going face-to-face with Sir Cuisinart should really be scary. Granted, with plate and a shield, AC 20 (more with magic) is nothing to sneeze at, so they’re harder to hit. But the per-turn damage ability of fighters is really second to a lot of characters that are second-rankers.
I was thinking that it might be interesting to allow something like a fighter to spend his own actual Hit Points for more damage. Say, 2d4 to a blow for every 5 HP you spend. You probably don’t have to limit it other than not being able to spend below 10 HP plus your CON bonus times your level – those are mostly physical toughness, not skill or grit or honed combat instinct. So Marcus could exchange HP for extra damage dice as long as he’s above 28 HP (3 for CON x 6th level + 10 HP). 
If you did want to limit it, perhaps you can only do it a number of times equal to, say, half your level plus some attribute score. Not STR, because that double-dips. CON might work, but that seems odd since those are physical HP, and this bonus damage is from skill. DEX might be fun, since honestly for heavy fighters there’s not much reason to do DEX. Well, unless you’re an archer. WIS might be a good one, as it’s the ability to notice an opening (tied to Perception). CHA makes no sense, nor does INT. Half level plus WIS? That would allow Marcus to do this five times, trading 25 HP for 10d4 damage to his foes.
I’d make you select whether or not to spend HP before you roll to hit, because I would double these damage dice on a critical hit (if you miss you don’t lose the HP, I’d think?). So Marcus might announce that he’s spending 5 HP. On a hit he would do 1d8+2d4 + 5 (8-21 HP), but on a critical hit the dice would double: 2d8+4d4+5, for 11-37 HP range. 
This would leverage a fighter’s higher HP for something other than a damage sink and pincushion, and make it quite risky to stand face-to-face with a fighter type. For that reason (and since Hunter’s Mark and Colossus Slayer stack already for archers, and give plenty of extra damage from a distance where the archer can’t get hit back) I’d make it melee only. 
Hrm. That might be a good Feat, actually. Or even a Fighting Style? Class feature for combatives, and Feat for those that might want it. 
Anyway, this is just me being an inveterate rules tinkerer. But it allows the fighter-type to make the choice of using his hit points to be a wall between his enemies and his friends (this is how it plays now), or to menace his foes, but be not that much harder to kill than the softer-skinned second-rank types. It would also give fighters a much-needed (in my experience, which doesn’t hold for everyone) damage boost.

I have no idea why I did this. But I was thinking, probably because of my comments in my firearms-related Violent Resolution column.

But  . . . I wondered to myself if there was a way to turn some sort of real-world number into D&D damage output.

I know, I know. Why would I ever do such a thing? I had noted (complained, really) that a 9mm was 2d6, and the mighty .50BMG was but 2d12.

So . . . I whipped out solver, and it turns out if you use the energy of the bullet, and only the energy of the bullet, if you use 4 * Log (Base 5) Energy you get a number that might just equate to the maximum damage you can roll on the dice. It compresses the scale even further than the usual result, but it’s not insane.

Examples?

Cartridge Name D&D Damage? Roughly
.22LR 12 2d6
.380 ACP 13 2d6+1
4.6x30mm PDW 15 2d6+3
.45 ACP 15 2d6+3
5.7x28mm 16 2d8
.40S&W 16 2d8
124gr 9x19mm 16 2d8
.45GAP 16 2d8
180gr 10mm Auto 16 2d8
5.45x39mm 18 2d8+2
240gr .44M 18 2d8+2
.50 AE 19 2d8+3
M855 5.56x45mm 19 2d8+3
7.62x39mm 19 2d8+3
6.8x43mm SPC 19 2d8+3
12 Gauge Shotgun Slug 20 2d10
150gr NATO 7.62x51mm 20 2d10
.500 S&W 20 2d10
.30-06 21 2d10+1
.300 Win Mag 21 2d10+1
.338 Lapua Magnum 22 2d10+2
.50 BMG 24 2d12
14.5x114mm KPV 26 2d12+2
120mm M829-A1 39 6d6+3
16″ Naval gun 49 8d6+1
A shortbow or longbow with a good DEX will get you 1d6+4 or 1d8+4, which are 10 and 12 max damage . . .basically a longbow has the same max as a 2d6, which energetically works out fairly well, since powerful bows deliver on the order of 100-200J. So that’s not crazy-town.
Now, this is totally based on energy, and that means the big, slow bullets are worse than small fast ones. Fine – acknowledged it’s not perfect, but it’s a scale that actually fits reasonably well with d20 Modern and can be extrapolated to other weapons.

Show the Work
How did I do it?

I tried to make a .22LR 8 points (2d4), a 9mm 12 points (2d6), and a .50BMG 24 points. I used a formula to set a quantity of D = A * logB(Energy). I squared the difference and normalized it to the target squared . . . so (D-T)^2 / T^2. I also weighted the results, so the .22LR got 1000x the figured sum, the 9mm got 4000x, and the BMG got 9000x. That was to force Solver (in Excel) to give more weight to making the .50BMG 2d12 or 24 points. The energies I used were 130J for the .22LR, 585J for the 9mm, and 14,700 for the .50BMG, which assumes a man-portable 32″ barrel instead of the 43″ bbl on the machinegun (which is about 16,000J).

Solver gave an exact figure of A = 3.88 and B of 5.1. But setting A=4 and B= 5 is actually better at fitting the BMG, and puts the .22LR at the 2d6 value above. Given the energy involved, that’s probably as good as the d20 modern values.

When converting max damage to dice, I always use the largest dice I can, but don’t allow subtraction. So 19 points isn’t 2d10-1, but rather 2d8+3. That’s a quirk of mine. You can certainly convert any way you like, and 39 points could be 4d8+5, 4d10-1, or 3d12+3 easily enough. Heck, have at it and make it 9d4+3, and the 16″ Naval Gun 12d4+1 to keep the minimum damage high.

Note that the Naval Gun is just the kinetic energy. I haven’t yet figured out how to rate the explosion of 150 lbs. of high explosive inside about 2,000lbs of metal.

Bah! The Damages are Too High!

A comment on G+ noted that 3e humans only have 4 HP, which is a fair point. If you wanted purposefully lower numbers, then here are some nudges/hacks, as well as my line of thought.

I based them off of d20 Modern’s list, where a 9mm was 2d6 and a .50BMG was 2d12. The math forced the 9mm to 2d8 and put the .22LR, which I tried to make about 2d4, into 2d6.

In 5e, at least, a 1st level fighter is going to start with at least 10 HP, and you get a DEX bonus to the 1d6 or 1d8 base damage of a short or longbow, respectively. So from that perspective, 2d6 (ish) or 2d8 for a pistol is the equivalent, on the average of 1d6+3.5 and 1d8+4.5 for damage, neither of which is out of line for d20 Modern or 5e, at least.

If you lower the values to make them work for low level characters, you have the opposite problem – a high level fighter can shrug off a burst of .50BMG unless you invoke the harshest of harsh wounds rule where if you take more HP than your CON, you save or die (that’s a suggested threshold – the harshest one – from the d20 Modern SRD).

If you force the .22LR down closer to a shortbow, the formula becomes something like 2*log(base4) Energy. That makes a .22LR 1d6+1, a 9mm about 1d8+1, a 5.56mm 1d10+1, 7.62mmNATO 1d12, and a .50BMG 1d12+2.

This gives fewer categories of damage

  • 1d6+1 for .22LR 
  • 1d8 for .380 ACP 
  • 1d8+1 for PDW rounds and all normal military pistols (.45 ACP, 9mm, 10mm, .40S&W) 
  • 1d10 for magnum pistols (.357M, .44M) and lower-powered assault rifles (4.73x33mmCLS, 5.45x39mm) 
  • 1d10+1 for standard military assault rifles (5.56, 6.8SPC, 7.62x39mm, 6.5 Grendel) 
  • 1d12 for battle rifles and sniper rifles from .308 to .338 Win Mag 
  • 1d12+1 for .338 Lapua or .416 Rigby 
  • 1d12+2 for .50BMG 

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.

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:

We begin with some bookkeeping – we need to pick the three magic items we’ve attuned to, which limits the other players more than Nosphryc, since he only has three magic items. Good news is that reading the descriptions of the Sword of Lendorth and Amulet of Ren again, which provided two key abilities that I can draw upon for the undead guys:

  • Amulet of Ren: +1 to AC versus undead; First attack by an undead creature in a turn is at disadvantage (happens once per turn)
  • Sword of Lendorth: Long sword, +1 to attack and damage; +3 to damage versus undead; You gain a bonus action every turn when fighting undead

Nice


***

We start out recovering from the fight, and then proceed to explore some more, following the evidence of foot traffic, assuming traffic is treasure. We decide we’ll use the Lens of Finding in each room to ensure that we don’t bypass any secret doors. It’ll slow us down, but worth it to ensure we don’t miss anything.

We wander for a while, well, purposeful wandering, and come to a T intersection. We can see evidence of a room to the left, so we head that way. Another couple of splits, that seem to head back to an intersection we’ve passed before.

We come to a standing pool in the middle of a small room. The pool is elevated a bit from the floor, maybe a foot. It’s also about a foot deep.

We investigate the pool a bit, checking it for any auras or vibes. As we get close to it, examining the pool, we can tell that the stonework around the pool is itself magical – but not the water. We check out the pool with the Lens of Molnar, and we find that the stone creates and purifies the water within the basin. We replenish our fresh water supplies, and warn Luven not to pee in the pool. Let’s see if Luven’s Mighty Wand can dispell the magic! Let’s not.

We proceed on, and the room to the south contains six rings and eyebolts, that seemed to be for holding animals.

We proceed onwards . . . and walk right the heck into an ambush. Eleven humanoids, with spiked clubs and loincloths. Mixed male and female. They are Grimlocks, a type of creature we’ve not yet seen.

“YUMMY YUMMY! EAT EAT!”

Apparently not vegan.

We are not surprised, but split initiative. Luven hits for 12 HP, which does not kill anyone. And we get rushed by another ten guys from behind.

Nosphryc nails one with a critical hit, using his Archery feat to take -5 to hit and +10 damage. Blasts him for 24 HP, killing him. The second is actually a critical miss, alas. The guys only seem to have about 9-16 HP, so he’ll be splitting his attacks on the guys coming from behind.

Breena rages. She puts one down, and badly injures another. Adzeer throws down a Guardian of Faith – an indistinct sword and shield that wards off hostile creatures, who will take damage if they come too close. Kinds of a Patronus charm, but an angry one.

Dante tries to nail one with a firebolt, but just misses (thus establishing their AC as 11).

Luven fires through the ranks, at a disadvantage, and hits anyway with a 16; he does 18 points of damage even including his 4d6 sneak attack. He kills his foe.

Now the grimlocks are up. First all the guys next to Adzeer’s guardian have to deal with it – three get more or less vaporized, using up the 60 HP of capacity that the thing provides. That’s a nice hit, but still leaves us with six to the south and ten to the west.

Two attack Breena, both hitting. She’s a Grimlock magnet, but her damage taken is halved since she’s raging. Only 4 HP taken. Two attack and miss Adzeer; all the Grimlocks advance down the corridor, and now Nosphryc is sword-out.

He strikes one twice, killing him. Adzeer casts Spiritual Weapon, and a ghostly blade appears. 

We actually discuss this rule for quite a while. Was not clear to everyone in the same way.

Anyway he hits once with the ghostly weapon, and once physically. A total of 20 HP later, and his foe drops.

Breena takes down two, the second with a mighty blow for 17 HP in one shot.

Dante misses again with his firebolt; he’s 0 for 3. Luven klls one for 26 HP – he’s very dead – with his light crossbow.

The Grimlocks attack. One hits Adzeer for 5 HP, and two hit Nosphryc for 10 HP total. 

Nosphryc takes down one next to Luven, leaving him room to use his crossbow. He hits a second foe, but not enough to kill him. Adzeer misses with his Spirit Weapon, but hits hard with a melee attack, killing another.

Breena steps up to the plate with a critical hit for 20 HP, murderizing another. She spins, and attacks the one Nosphryc hit, hitting him and dropping him for 13 HP, enough to ruin his day as well. Dante finally connects with a firebolt, doing 13 HP of flaming death. He’s toast. Grimlock: it’s what’s for dinner! Grimlock: the other white meat. 

Hey, that’s what they get when their battle cry is “YUMMY YUMMY EAT EAT!”

We speculate that this is either the worst ambush ever, or a clever drain on our resources before a real fight.

At this point, we’re down to but four Grimlocks; they flee. One triggers two attacks of opportunity, one from Luven, another from Nosphryc – he dies. Another triggers a spiritual hammer and mace attack from Adzeer, and again takes 15 HP on the first attack, making the second irrelevant. 

Luven decides to give chase; he hits one hard in the back, but doesn’t kill him. We joke that the Grimlocks have isolated the gazelle from the herd. Luven kills one on an attack of opportunity as he flees, and then runs down and kills the last one.

Upon searching the bodies, we find many have a rough cloth bag, most with meat in them. One with a pink diamond (worth 5,000gp), and one with a plush figurine. Of a mind flayer. Yikes.

It could be used as a fetish, but Grimlocks were once the slaves of mindflayers, and they still venerate them. So it could be a holy symbol, a security blanket, or a freakin’ chew toy. No idea.

We continue to explore, looking for the primary room where the dual-pronged ambush came from. We find it – a 40×120+ foot room with pillars supporting a tall ceiling. We check both the pillars and the walls with the Finding Lens, but it’s just a big ol’ room, with periodic pile of poo where the Grimlocks did their thing. Luven, with an eye for treasure, finds something sparkly in the poo – he uses Slight of Hand to nab it. 

We contemplate taking a long rest – and decide to take one. We hole up where we fought the southern wave of Grimlocks, making a 300-like wall of Grimlocks 

We let Breena’s Bear take a watch, then Dante and Nosphryc, then Adzeer and Luven take their turns, and a long rest is embarked upon. We hear sounds of dripping water and the occasional scuffle, the first watch is as still as death. During the second watch, far off in the distance, there is a horrible wailing scream . . . then nothing. The third watch passes without incident as well. We’ve passed around magical items that we can’t attune to, the most notable being a Cloak of Protection (+1).

***

It’s about 8:30 – we end there. We got 3,010 XP.

We then discuss the attunement rules. We talk about attuning to 2+Proficiency bonus. And a few other options, but no resolution is found just yet.

We started out remembering that we had some magic items to divvy out, since last time we forgot to distribute the freakin’ Ring of Zombie protection.

There were lots of dead undead (?!), and a human figure with a wooden stake driven through the visor of his helmet. The mail is decent quality; this guy was no slouch. Well, other than getting a stake driven through his face, after which slouching was the order of the day, really.


Everything magical/non-weapony from last few sessions:

  • Potion of Gaseous Form
  • Potion of Animal Friendship
  • ring of zombie protection (disadvantage to attacking zombies)
  • Magic Helmet
  • 4 vials healing potion (1d8+1)
  • Dante (Chris): 10 vials holy water
  • 10 flasks of holy water (a flask is 5 vials)
  • 5 flasks oil
The helmet was the one with the stake jammed through it, but Adzeer knows the Mend cantrip. That fixes up the helmet, and a quick scan reveals a Detect Undead spell on it. 
We agree that it must have had a very short range. We are informed it’s a 60′ range. It’s a greathelm, so we give that to Nosphryc ’cause he can wear it, and the ring of Zombie protection to Breena. 
Luven, against his better judgement, pulls out a tin scroll case, 41 silver bars, 17 gold bar, and a silver chalice (worth 300 gp). Guess he just happened to find that.
The scroll reads: 

“an than we gose don moore long steps too a odder plase tat haz a beg man and a forrezt and than we gose Further pasd a sittee an dat is wer the nomes ar rimemmer too stele da nomes an brigg dem to elias” (Bork bork bork!)

We divvy up the healing potions between Luven and Dante at two each, so everyone has some, as well as two flasks and two vials of holy water each.

We receive the party pog back, and Luven examines the (locked) secret door, and picks it open with his tools. It’s short corridor with a smaller room than the previous one, and since it’s empty, we know to look for secret doors. We find one, expectedly.

Luven continues to rock the door finding and locked-door picking. He uses his earring of echolocation to find secret doors and such. Since the corridor goes only 15′ and then hits a wall, again, we have a hidden door. 

Portrait of Luven

This one enters a room devoid of creatures, but has a black altar and a stone table against the east wall. There’s some soot on the ceiling on either end of the altar – looking at the surface, on the altar below the soot spots, there are traced of black wax. Candles.  Luven is looking for treasuretreasuretreasuretreasure. We decide Luven is like the hamburglar, and he shouts “Man, this is a gyp!” when no treasure is found.

Looking at the altar and the construction of the room, we determine that it’s set up to look like a temple or shrine, but it’s to nobody. It’s basically for show. We speculate that it was to try and make money or run a con.

We decide to give the altar cap a shove, and Breena, with STR 18 and Aspect of the Bear, she puts us all to shame. “Step aside, men. This is women’s work.” Breena pushes the slab off, and the entire thing collapses. The stone table is broken!

Not that anyone cares. 

We look for more secret doors again, and find one behind the table on the east wall. We ask Breena to do it, since lifting is, again, women’s work. Geez, we do a quick survey: Luven is STR 11, Nosphryc and Dante are STR 18, Breena is STR 18 with her magical Aspect of the Bear, and Adzeer is STR 19. Crimeny.

We decide to detect undead, and we both get a faint sense of Undead behind the door, as if it’s a trace of a creature. The secret door itself is locked; Luven picks it, opens it up a crack, and we head down to some sort of sarcophagus. 

Luven goes to check it out and rolls a natural 1 . . . so he just opens the thing up.

“You can roll all the 20s you wan’t, but you can’t fix stupid” – Adzeer

Inside the sarcophagus, there’s about a cubic foot of dirt, and nothing else. It’s probably the vampire’s sacred soil or something, so Nosphryc pours a flask of holy water on the soil. The name on the sarcophagus says  The water starts to bubble and steam; the helmet no longer detects undead.

Sebastian Baynard Finster

Ah. There’s SBF from the letter.
Luven steps into the Sarcophagus drops his pants and piddles all over the vampire’s “sacred” soil.

We go around the area with the Finder’s Lens, but dont’ find much. We head back to the crossroads, and hear noises from the north. Luven heads out on point, and peeks around the corner – he sees some trolls and some hobgoblins, which are known to have pretty good loot.

He tries to gesture to us. We decide there are two Tiger Tanks, a couple of panzers, and he wants a subway meatball sandwich with cheese.

Anyway, we get ready to fight!

Nosphryc rolls poorly, but still better than the trolls. Small favors. 

The hobgoblin starts by saying “I’m going to shove that ‘meh’ up your ass!” and attacks Loven; one hits for 7 HP and the other runs up and misses twice. Now our 18s go,  but a few more hobgoblins just pop into existence as well. We’re now facing at least four hobgoblins and two trolls.

Breena mounts her bear, rides up to a hobgoblin, and tries to grapple him. So a gnome, riding a bear, grapples a hobgoblin. Don’t see much of that! Breena gives him a shove for his second attack (both with advantage). The shove is resisted by Athletics or Acrobatics; the hobgoblin fails, and he’s pinned against the wall by the bulk of the combat bear. Panzerbjorn for the win. The most literal overbearing attack ever. Plus rage. Can’t forget the rage.

Dante steps up and hits the prone, grappled hobgoblin with a firebolt for 13HP worth of damage.  Luven stabs at his foes for 15 HP, with both the Blade of Ung as well as the magical talking sword, Marcus Aurelius. Nosphryc steps up and glaives the prone guy twice for 19 HP, with a crit. He dies.

We manage to block the corridor, more or less, but the tactical advantage does not yet seem with us. Adzeer gets hit once for 2 HP, and two hobgoblins attack Luven, one hitting for 5 HP, the other for another 5 HP. 

Breena attacks with the Battle-Axe of Aknarr, twice, hitting both times, for a total of 19 HP. Not bad, not bad. 

Adzeer kills the wounded fellow with a mighty blow from the Mace of Curn. Dante then steps up to the corner and attacks with the Axe of Delnar, hitting for 11HP. The hobgoblin speaks disparagingly of our ancestry. Luven hits for 21 HP, including 4d6 worth of sneak attack.

Nosprhyc then steps up and hits twice for 15 HP with his glaive.

Now the trolls move up, and Luven gets bitten by a troll, but only for 5 HP; the frantic swinging with the trolls arms does an additional 12 HP of damage. Yowch.

The hobgoblins disappear; they teleport away somewhere. Probably behind us.

Breena hits wtice with her axe for 25 HP, but it’s not magical or fire damage, so it’s going to grow back. Adzeer casts a 3d8 healing spell on Luven for 15 HP to keep him in the not-dead column.

Dante steps to the side and tries to hit the front troll with a firebolt, which he does for 11HP of non-regenerating fire damage. Woof.

Luven quaffs a quick potion using a Cunning Action, and hits with his sword for 23 HP, thanks to a highly distracted troll. Nosphryc hits twice for 19 HP with his glaive. His knees buckle after the second hit, but he doesn’t go down.

A troll chomps at Breena, and rolls a critical hit for 13 HP; another crit with the next arm does 16 HP more, and the final swipe misses. His Aspect of the Bear halves this 29HP down to 15HP, which is fortunate.

Adzeer steps in front of Luven and casts at the troll that was almost dead, but is now recovering. Sacred Flame – it does radiant damage, so not unhealable by trolls, but better than nothing. 13 HP of damage. Dante flings another firebolt, but only hits for 3 HP this time. Luven uses his shortbow and adds his sneak attack damage for 24 HP of damage(!).

Nosrphyc flings a flask of oil at the fallen troll (he’s regenerating), hits, and then hits for 12 HP.

The final troll chomps at Adzeer, and hits AC 21 by rolling 25! He bits for 9 HP, and then misses twice. 

Breena’s player had to step out, but she comes back and gets to take her turn, and then another to start the next round. Two attacks with her axe hit for 27 HP, and then twice more for 28 HP. Those are mighty, mighty blows.

Dante hits the oil with the firebolt; the oil bursts into flame as well – 9 HP for the bolt, and 5 HP of fire damage for the oiled-up troll. Both die, and the fight is over.

The trolls, together, have 12 silver bars, and 2 bags each with 15 lbs of rotting meat. Each hobgoblin has a spear, a light crossbow with 12 bolts each, a dagger, and one of the hobgoblins has a small sack tied to his bolt. 

The sack is a bag of holding – there are 71 gold bars, 322 silver bars, 3 more crossbow bolts, and a bedroll. A good WIS roll shows them to be 3 bolts of vampire slaying, which give Advantage and 3x damage. The bedroll is Mildor’s Bedroll of Comfort. It provides perfect sleeping comfort on any semi-horizontal surface at temps of -20 to 120F. It also causes searchers looking for us sleeping to have disadvantage on Perception rolls. Camouflage elven bedroll! (p. 22 in the LL Bean catalog, we think).

The brown sacks to the north are yet unplundered, so we plunder them. Five large sacks, lumpy in the middle of the floor. Each of them is moving as if something inside is breathing. We open them up, and find more gnomes. One of the gnomes with us recognizes them. Good, they can take care of them. 

We inquire how close we might be to their gnome-home. They have no idea. 

After the fighting and searching, we take a short rest, it being a little after noon. The short rest brings most people back to full HP.

***

We each earn 2980 XP. I get a Feat or stat boost, and . . . hmm.

Nosphyrc’s stats are

STR 18
DEX 14
CON 16
INT 13
WIS 15
CHA 14

So there are quite a few things I could do here.

  • STR stat boost for STR 20. Hits me with +1 to hit, +1 damage for all melee stuff.
  • DEX stat boost for DEX 16. Given me being encased in plate, there’s no AC help for me here, so that’s just +1 to hit with my bow. Probably bad idea.
  • CON 18 would give me +1 HP for the rest of time, and raise my HP maximum, I think. Given I’m a front-line guy, this is not necessarily a bad thing
  • INT 14 WIS 16 would give me +1 to two different stats, both of which have seen use. Perception is a big thing for Nosphryc, and this would help that.
  • Heavy Armor Mastery gives +1 STR for STR 19, plus soaking three points of mundane damage per shot. That’s a good thing.
  • Polearm Mastery is nice because of the extra attack (only 1d4, but includes the STR bonus, so it sorta turns the glaive into 8+1d10+1d4, for 10-22 damage, more with a critical
  • Sharpshooter is nifty, and would be lethal against foes where I have advantage. We have a grappler in the group that likes to throw people down, which would make for a nice one-two combo
  • Finally, Observant for +5 to Perception is sweet.
I was leaning sharpshooter, but that STR boost will always help me. 
Hrm, decisions, decisions.

You can find great outtakes over at The Clash of Spear on Shield.