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Showing posts from March, 2016

The Gerridan

The gerridan are large intelligent water strider insect folk that live in a hive colony. They are found primarily underground in large water-filled caverns. They avoid all contact with other species.

The gerridan queen fully commands the drones of the hive using telepathic communication. This makes them a very dangerous enemy when angered. Generally, when threatened, the gerridan will use their water casting abilities to isolate the threat and retreat. The one obvious exception to this is when eggs or gerridlings are harmed. This is generally considered an act of war against the hive, and the entire hive will fight to the death.

Gerridan Drone Large monstrosity, lawful neutral
Armor Class 19 (natural armor)
Hit Points 123 (13d10 +52)
Speed 30ft., climb 30ft., water walk 30ft.
STR 16 (+3) DEX 16 (+3) CON 18 (+4) INT 13 (+1) WIS 14 (+2)  CHA 12(+1)
Senses water sense 120ft. (Can sense any motion in the water within range)
Languages Undercommon (understand only), telepathy
Challenge  estimated…

Changing Rules: Empirical vs Anecdotal Evidence

Everyone wants a better game. GMs will do many things to achieve this goal. Unfortunately, GMs delve into the role of game designer way too quickly without understanding a simple truth: GMs are not game designers. The two have different objectives. GMs want a fun game with a certain tone. Game designers try to build a system that is fun, but not vulnerable to exploitation and imbalance.

Normally, this is not a big deal. A GM can use experience to make small tweaks to a system to the get the game they want. If it works well, they want to pick it up and use it everywhere. Doing this can often cause more harm than good. As a GM and designer who tweaks my own system, I understand the desire and the dangers and have dealt with them first hand. The biggest alligator lurking in that swamp is the mystery of empirical evidence vs anecdotal evidence.
Evidence is data that contributes to drawing a conclusion. In this case we are talking about evidence for changing / adding / ignoring a rule. Whe…

Rolling for Contacts: Giving Players More Creative Input in 5E

Like many GMs, I feel my players don't influence the game enough. One of my goals is to always customize the game to fit what the players want. Unfortunately 5E is light on mechanics for this. To start to fix this, I am proposing a new mechanic: Rolling for Contacts.
Contacts are non-combat NPCs that the players have a connection to in order to get help of whatever non-combat form they want. The player gets 1 contact every 4 levels. To gain a contact during the game (not at level up!), they describe an NPC they want to gain as a contact and then the GM rolls a hidden skill check while the party is not in combat. That skill check must be related to the type of contact they wish to gain. For example, a good stealth skill check may gain a member of the local thieves' guild. A good religion check might gain a local cleric that would be a PC's friend. The player, however, gets to describe exactly who their contact is, in whatever level of detail is desired and appropriate.
If t…

Handling Traps with Skills in 5E

Here is a quick summary of how to handle traps with skills in 5E. Each step in this feeds the next step.

Passive Perception -- Allows a PC to notice obvious scents (acid vapor), sounds (click), feelings (floor seems suddenly uneven), and sights (is that a tripwire or a spiderweb) that may or may not indicate a trap. Be sure to have them notice things when there isn't a trap too.Active Perception -- Allows PCs to actively search for other trap clues. This requires a roll and perhaps, an action. Active perception usually does not involve touching anything, except to taste.Investigation -- Allows a PC to investigate a specific thing that was identified with perception. The player should describe what they do based on the scenario. They may choose to touch and interact with things. This could set off the trap. Investigation, if successful, can determine how the trap works and what the trap does. Some traps have hidden components or components far away that limit the results. Some traps…

Changing D&D: The Game You Want

D&D has changed a lot throughout its history. There is a strong old-school guard there always to remind us that today's D&D was not yesterday's D&D. The transition from 3.x to 4 to 5 has been a long arduous journey for everyone. All of the history, unfortunately, has convinced a lot of people to think they already know D&D. With 5E, things have changed, and I think more than ever, D&D can give a lot more folks the game they want.

Just the other day I was engaged with a Burning Wheel fan where he stated as a fact that D&D is a combat-based XP system and that leveling up with XP only gives combat skills. Really? Unfortunately it is a held over misconception from previous editions. 5E added backgrounds, a new mechanical hook for storytelling, which is clearly a nod to noncombat. There is no reason 5E can't be used as well as any rules-light system for non-combat encounters and character growth. It is true that a significant portion of the book material…