Thursday, April 23, 2015

Breaking News: I Hate Math

The Anti-Party
Because nothing's more dangerous than the PC's dark mirror.
I’ve been enjoying the heck out of D&D 5e, but yesterday I got a very strong reminder about what’s so great about Savage Worlds.
The PCs in A Gleam of Silver are absurdly overpowered. This is entirely my fault and I accept the consequences. Basically, I didn’t trust the system. Because I perceived the game as flawed, I gave the players a bunch of bonuses – an over-generous starting attribute spread, max hit points every level, feats and attribute increases simultaneously – to make their characters more powerful. It’s made the game pretty fun, but sometimes victory comes way too easily for a bunch of 5th level characters.
Because of this, I decided their next challenge was going to be a bunch of higher-level characters. This 10th level “anti-party” is intended more as a roleplaying challenge (they’re good- and lawful-aligned characters that have sworn an oath to prevent anyone entering the place the PCs want to get into) but I need combat stats just in case. The 5e Monster Manual has a bunch of NPC stat blocks, but few of these actually use the playable classes – meaning they’re really underpowered compared to PCs.
Which in turn means that I need to stat this anti-party out.
It took me an hour* to stat up two of the needed six NPCs – and those were the characters for which I have the strongest concepts. I already knew the antagonist fighter was a specialist in both dual-wielding and two-handed weapons (and had a pair of magical swords that could combine into one greatsword); I basically already had her attribute scores and feats mapped out in my brain. I already knew that the anti-party’s druid was Circle of the Moon to contrast the PC’s Circle of the Land druid. It was still a chore to assign attributes, choose skills, and work out the proper advances they gained as they leveled up.
I suppose I could have simply assigned things however I wanted, but that would feel like cheating. D&D has always been pretty math-centric; it has to be if players are going to be able to make educated choices about expending their resources. As much as I want my players to know better than to get into a fight with these dudes, I don’t want to win a fight by DM fiat. I want the math to be fair.
You know what doesn’t give a crap about math? Savage Worlds.
Some weird, fastidious, anal-retentive part of my brain is appalled by the idea of cheating with D&D NPCs, but has no problem accepting Savage Worlds’ whole “just give ‘em whatever the hell you want” ethos for NPCs. Hell, the rule books take this approach and run with it. One of my few concrete observations from Lankhmar: City of Thieves is that while Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are built as proper player heroes in their “beginning of their career” stats, by the time they’re in their prime they have so many advances to Attributes, Skills, and Edges that they must be several hundred experience points past Legendary. The wonky exploding dice and severely limited resilience threshold of Savage Worlds characters means that this doesn’t even break the system.
Despite this, I’m not going to try to talk the group into returning to Savage Worlds. I love it – and I love writing for it – but everyone is having a great time with 5e and I don’t want to screw up the momentum this campaign has going. I’ll just have to figure out a way to streamline making D&D NPCs… Or have an anti-party of nothing but fighters and druids.
*I could only give myself an hour because I'm very, very busy on Steamscapes: Asia.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Savage Insider Vol. 3, Issue 1 released!

"An Abundance of Gods" -- my article in the latest Savage Insider -- is a weird experiment for me. Basically, it's an examination of the Shinto religion from a gameplay perspective, statting up Shinto archetypes and extrapolating ways to use the religion and its philosophies in RPGs. I would like it to be the first in a trilogy of articles examining Japanese religion (the others would concentrate on Buddhism and syncretism), but I realize it's a bit of an oddball angle for gaming articles. Let me know what you think of it and whether you would like the series to continue.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Pre-Lankhmar: City of Thieves post

I hear Pinnacle's Lankhmar: City of Thieves has stats for Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser at different levels of their development. Since I didn't receive a review copy (*glower*), I'll have to wait until tonight to buy my PDF + preorder. In the meantime, I wonder how much their versions look like mine?
(Yes, they skipped right from Seasoned to Legendary. It's in the books!)

Friday, April 3, 2015

Going on Hiatus

I hate doing this, but I am formally placing the blog on hiatus until I finish my chapter for Steamscapes: Asia. A part of me feels silly for thinking this is even worthy of an announcement, but a bigger part of me knows that unless I formalize it that I'm going to keep worrying about not posting. I'll post the announcement for the next Savage Insider when it comes out, but otherwise don't expect to hear from me for about two months (unless some cool idea just demands to be written). Sorry!

In the meantime, here's ten hours of the Fairy Tail theme:


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Dungeons & Drunkards Collected!

+Charles Akins has done me, +Jens D., and +Stelios V. Perdios a favor and collected our Dungeons & Drunkards posts into one handy FREE PDF! Thrill to Charles' fiction of debauchery gone wrong! Laugh at Stelios' reminsces of debauchery gone right! Learn from Jens' history of alcohol rules in D&D! And... um... read my goofy monsters and 5e drinking rules, I guess...
(No, seriously, it was fun and the other guys' stuff is pretty cool.)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Dungeons & Drunkards Part 8: Wine Angel

Dungeons & Drunkards continues! Join me, +Jens D.+Charles Akins, and +Stelios V. Perdios on a drunken ramble through roleplaying. Today I bring you another 5e monster with a drinking problem...

In worlds where the bottling of wine has been perfected, a new phenomenon is sweeping through the better taverns of the great cities. Tavern keepers are stacking their bottles in towering stacks reaching from the floor to the ceiling; when a patron orders a bottle from the higher shelves, a comely magic-user levitates or flies up to the bottle in an acrobatic display. These performer-hosts are called “wine angels” in reference to the playful celestials that watch over barrel rooms.

True wine angels are a lesser form of celestial, far less fierce and warlike than the devas, planetars, and solars that battle against the forces of evil. Wine angels primarily exists to bring blessings to those who seek to spread happiness, but they also ward barrel rooms from the incursions of imps and quasits who seek to infect the rapture of intoxication with bitterness and regret. In comparison with more powerful angels, they often appear slender – even slight – with softer features and more pleasant demeanors.

Angels’ Share. Wine angels guard barrel rooms, watching over wine, whiskey, tequila reposado, and other beverages that are aged in oaken barrels. They draw sustenance from the fumes released by the evaporation of the liquids (hence the distillers’ and vintners’ term “the angels’ share”). The high spirits of a resident wine angel is shared in turn; hope and happiness are infectious in a wine angel’s barrel room.

A Wine Angel's Lair
A wine angel's lair is the vineyards and winery of a good-aligned winemaker, often associated with a church or monastery. They most often frequent vineyards worked for many generations.

Regional Effects
Blessed by the angel's presence, a winery home to a wine angel might receive any of the following benefits:

  • Good-aligned creatures using brewer's (vintner's) tools receives advantage on their checks.
  • The vineyard attracts cellar rats (10% chance every year).
  • When a creature rolls a natural 20 when using brewer's (vintner's) tools within the wine angel's domain, the wine created acts a potion of heroism.

Wine Angel
Medium celestial, lawful good

Armor Class 15 (natural armor)
Hit Points 66 (12d8+12)
Speed 30 ft., fly 60 ft.

  STR       DEX      CON      INT      WIS      CHA
10 (+0)   14 (+2)   13 (+1)   12 (+1)  18 (+4) 20 (+5)

Saving Throws Wis +6, Cha +7
Skills Insight +6, Perception +6
Proficiencies Brewer's/Vintner's Supplies
Damage Resistances radiant; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical weapons
Condition Immunities charmed, exhaustion, frightened
Senses truesight 120 ft., passive Perception 15
Languages all, telepathy 120 ft. 
Challenge 4 (1,100 XP)

Angelic Weapons. The wine angel's weapon attacks are magical. When the angel hits with any weapon, the weapon deals an extra 3d8 radiant damage (included in the attack).

Innate Spellcasting. The wine angel's spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 15). The wine angel can innately cast the following spells, requiring only verbal components:

  • At will: detect evil and good
  • 1/day each: commune, create food and water, purify food and water 
Magic Resistance. The angel has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Holy Sword. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d8+2) slashing damage plus 14 (3d8) radiant damage.

Invisible Guardian: The angel magically turns invisible until it attacks or casts a spell, or until its concentration ends (as if concentrating on a spell). While invisible, the angel leaves no physical evidence of its passage, so it can only be tracked by magic. Any equipment it wears or carries is invisible with it.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Dungeons & Drunkards Part 6: B-E-N-D-E-R!

Dungeons & Drunkards continues! Join me, +Jens D.+Charles Akins, and +Stelios V. Perdios on a drunken ramble through roleplaying. Today I bring you another 5e monster with a drinking problem...


You’re a "party?!" I love to party! Woo! Party! Party! Party!
– any random bender

Everyone knows of rogue modrons – those natives of the plane of Mechanus who throw off their allegiance to their creator-deity Primus and embrace self-determination – but few are aware that there are rogues amongst the rogues: hedonistic modrons warped both mentally and physically by their selfish desires. The Platonic solids that comprise the core of all modrons’ bodies are bent by odd, non-Euclidean geometry into strange curved and angled shapes, hence their name of “benders.”

Benders rarely pose direct danger to adventurers. Their drunken bonhomie impels them to befriend anyone and everything they meet, so they are most likely to greet adventuring parties as boon companions. Unfortunately, their reckless excess means that any heroes traveling with a bender will have their location and objectives announced loudly and frequently. 

Party Hearty. Benders have utterly embraced Chaos and live in a perpetual state of raucous inebriation. This distracted, drunken state makes benders exceptionally resilient to mind-controlling effects at the cost of leaving them in a perpetual haze of uncontrolled hedonism.

Alcoholic Alchemy. Primus did not create modrons to use wine and spirits as fuel. Alcohol imbibed by benders is transformed by their internal workings into a potent distillate essentially identical to alchemist’s fire. Benders are known to vomit this concoction in its liquid form and belch gouts of fire.

Bender (Duodrone)
Medium construct, chaotic neutral

Armor Class 15 (natural armor)
Hit Points 17 (2d8+8)
Speed 20 ft.

STR       DEX      CON      INT      WIS      CHA
11 (+0)  13 (+1)  18 (+4)    6 (-2)    6 (-2)    7 (-2)

Skills Sleight of Hand +3
Proficiencies Thieves' Tools
Senses truesight 120 ft., passive Perception 8
Languages Common, Modron 
Challenge 1/4 (50 XP)

Alchemical Vomit: Any time the bender fails a Constitution save (such as when it is plied with excess drink), it vomits enough nascent alchemist's fire to fill one flask. The vomit can be contained in a stoppered flask in 1d4 rounds before igniting; otherwise, it sets fire to whatever the modron threw up on.

Intoxicated Mind: The bender can't be compelled to act in a manner contrary to its nature.

Multiattack. The bender makes two fist attacks.

Fiery Belch (Recharge 6). The bender exhales a flaming burp in a 15-foot cone. Each creature in the area must succeed on a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw or take 1d10 fire damage. A flammable object hit by the belch ignites if it isn't being worn or carried.

Fist. Melee Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 2 (1d4) bludgeoning damage.