I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

(More) flowers for D&D - 5e et al.

First part here.

In first part, I thought about the intersection between abilities. Now, let's try a different spin: active and passive abilities.

Check the first part to see why I chose this order of abilities; but, basically, Str relates to Con, that relates to Cha, etc.

The physical/mental divide is pretty intuitive.

Now, the active/passive part might be obvious, but then again it might not.

In D&D 3.x, this is easy to see (from the SRD, emphasis mine):

Strength (Str)
  • Melee attack rolls.
  • Damage rolls when using a melee weapon or a thrown weapon (including a sling). (Exceptions: Off-hand attacks receive only one-half the character’s Strength bonus, while two-handed attacks receive one and a half times the Strength bonus. A Strength penalty, but not a bonus, applies to attacks made with a bow that is not a composite bow.)
  • ...

Dexterity (Dex)

  • Ranged attack rolls, including those for attacks made with bows, crossbows, throwing axes, and other ranged weapons.
  • Armor Class (AC), provided that the character can react to the attack.
  • Reflex saving throws, for avoiding fireballs and other attacks that you can escape by moving quickly.
  • ...

Constitution (Con)

If a character’s Constitution score changes enough to alter his or her Constitution modifier, the character’s hit points also increase or decrease accordingly.

Intelligence (Int)

wizard gains bonus spells based on her Intelligence score. The minimum Intelligence score needed to cast a wizard spell is 10 + the spell’s level.

Wisdom (Wis)

Charisma (Cha)

Now look at this part:

Saving Throw Difficulty Class
A saving throw against your spell has a DC of 10 + the level of the spell + your bonus for the relevant ability (Intelligence for a wizard, Charisma for a sorcerer or bard, or Wisdom for a cleric, druid, paladin, or ranger).

This is pretty straightforward: Strength, Intelligence and Charisma are the more "aggressive" abilities, either trough attacks (Str), skills (Cha with deception, intimidation, feinting, etc.) os spells (Int and Cha). Dexterity, Wisdom and Constitution is the more "defensive" ones. 

But there is some nuance.

While Constitution has basically only defensive uses, Dexterity and Wisdom may be used to attack. With some caveats: Dexterity does NOT get added to damage in 3.x, and Wisdom is used for some spells. And Strenght can often protect through armor - although it won't help you with saves or avoiding "touch attacks".

Now, the first thing we learn from this is: sometimes, you can safely dump TWO aggressive stats, provided ONE of them is good enough. And you can dump ALL THREE if you can use one of your passive stats to attack. However, dumping ANY defensive stat is dangerous, because you can choose how to attack your foes... but not how your foes attack you!

(Side note: people might be thinking "but what about skills?!" at this point. Well, most Int and Cha skills - knowledge, diplomacy, gather information, etc. - can be tackled by a single PC. Unlike, say, Reflex saves - if the whole group is hit by a fireball, everyone is rolling dexterity!)

This is the case for 3e. What about other editions?

For TSR-D&D, it varies, but there are hints of this. See the RC, for example:

Ability Scores and Saving Throws In the standard rules, the only ability score that can affect a saving throw is Wisdom (affects saving throws vs. spells). The DM does, however, have the option to apply ability score bonuses and penalties to other saving throws: 
Strength: Modifies saving throws vs. paralysis and turn to stone.
Charisma: No bonus to saving throws.

Two things to notice: Wisdom is, "In the standard rules, the only ability score that can affect a saving throw"; and Charisma is the only ability that doesn't affect ANY saves even in the variant rules.

4e avoids the issue by making each PAIR of abilities enhance one save: you could use EITHER Str or Con to gain Fortitude, for example. While this sounds a good idea, it encourages you to dump one of each pair, making for somewhat non-archetypal characters. I would probably favor some kind of average instead. And IIRC you can use pretty much any ability to attack, depending on your class.

But my main concern here is 5e, the edition I have been playing recently.

Dexterity becomes a fully developed attack ability: you can add it to "to hit" and "damage" rolls, and Dexterity weapons are almost as good (or better, in the case of ranged weapons), than Strength ones. On the other hand, Strength protects you through armor, and you can use either ability to escape from a grapple.

Strength and Dexterity, then, become REDUNDANT: like 4e, if you have one, you can safely dump the other. Which creates the absurd situation that makes most fighters EITHER strong OR dexterous, BUT NOT BOTH.

5e also has SIX saves, one for each ability, but they aren't created equal; the three "defensive" abilities are used more often, but Strength is not far behind in fourth place.


What can we use this for?

First, for home-brews and house rules.

It is usually okay to replace one aggressive ability for another aggressive ability

In one of my games, I made a Int-based sorcerer that was really a "Tony Stark" tyep of cahrachter. An Int-based warlock would work too, or even a Cha-based wizard. Your druid is a Cha-based forest nymph or satyr? Sounds awesome to me! Str-wizard? Well, maybe, unless your trying to multi-class into fighter.

It is also cool to use an aggressive ability instead of a defensive one. 

You might want your Cleric to be an Int-based religious scholar or a charismatic religious leader, and base your spell saves on Int and Cha.

Strength and Dexterity are mostly interchangeable. A Str-monk and a Dex-barbarian (with some caveats) are both easy to create.

In short: if you don't use this to intentionally break the game (which includes using this ideas to better multi-class), the game will probably not break by itself.

On the other hand, the opposite isn't necessarily true. You should avoid using Wisdom (or Constitution) to create an alternate version of the wizard, sorcerer or bard, or EVERYONE WOULD DO IT, since they would have one extra stat to "dump". 

For example, if every sorcerer could use Wis, they would be able to dump BOTH Int and Cha.

Of course, if you're trying to give a boost to a certain class, that might be a good idea - I once seem someone suggest creating a Con-based Pact of the Blade Warlock to make the subclass stronger.

And, second, if you're planing on rewriting the game or writing your own, these idea might come in handy while you decide which ability to use in any given situation. For example: should Intelligence and Charisma be near-useless for a Cleric, os Strength a good dump-stat for a detrous fighter? And so on.

For me, personally, one idea comes to mind: each "pair" of abilities could be used in conjunction to defend or attack. BOTH would count, but you might choose one to count MORE.

See what Douglas Cole said in the first post as one possible example:

One of the interesting things here, especially with 5e, is the concept I use in Dragon Heresy a bit, where quantities are based off of one raw stat plus the bonus from another.

For example, Charisma plus a Wisdom Bonus would be personality modified by perceptiveness, a good stat for bluffing and con jobs. Dexterity plus perception bonus is probably a better stand in for initiative. 

So, potentially, you could use Intelligence to boost your Dex saves a bit, and vice-versa. Or Wisdom to give you a boost to Intelligence related skills. Maybe you are so fit that you can use your looks to deceive, despite your shy nature. Or very charismatic, courageous and iron-willed, despite desperately lacking wisdom and common sense!

Maybe even a Str bonus to skill, and dump the whole concept of "hit dice"? Everyone gets 1d6+Con+Str, or  1d6+Con+ some small bonus from Str.

All based on that original chart:

This allows for a greater range of archetypes (the thief isn't knowledgeable, but man he thinks FAST!) and also an useful boost to 5e saves at high levels.

Friday, March 16, 2018

D&D 5e fighting styles: Strong Archers

Look at this guy.

As we've mentioned before, not a great build in 5e. If you're using a bow, you must have high Dex, but if you using heavy (or even medium, to some extent) armor (and a longsword or something similar) you should have high Str - which makes your Dex less useful. There is little reason to have both Str and Dex for most characters. Unlike real life.

But the "Strong Archer" archetype is pretty cool, and I'm playing 5e. So, I want this to be a good character - think of something like old school D&D, when fighters could be amazing archers, as their fighter level was much more important than their Dex.

Fortunately, 3e has a decent solution for Str fighters:

SRD:Composite Longbow
All composite bows are made with a particular strength rating (that is, each requires a minimum Strengthmodifier to use with proficiency). If your Strength bonus is less than the strength rating of the composite bow, you can’t effectively use it, so you take a –2 penalty on attacks with it. The default composite longbow requires a Strength modifier of +0 or higher to use with proficiency. A composite longbow can be made with a high strength rating to take advantage of an above-average Strength score; this feature allows you to add your Strength bonus to damage, up to the maximum bonus indicated for the bow. Each point of Strength bonus granted by the bow adds 100 gp to its cost.
For purposes of weapon proficiency and , a composite longbow is treated as if it were a longbow.

Now, I'm not saying composite longbows work like that in real life. As far as I can tell, EVERY bow should be made with the wielder's Strength in mind, and EVERY bowman should get some benefit from Strength. But hey, it sounds believable enough, and we can use it to make good strength archers in 5e:

Composite Longbow
ll composite bows are made with a particular strength rating (that is, each requires a minimum Strength score to use with proficiency). If your Strength score is less than the strength rating of the composite bow, you can’t effectively use it, so you have disadvantage on attacks with it. The default composite longbow requires a Strength of 12 or higher to use with proficiency. A composite longbow can be made with a high strength rating to take advantage of an above-average Strength score. 
You to add your Strength bonus to damage (but not your attacks rolls), instead of Dexterity, up to the maximum bonus indicated for the bow.
For purposes of weapon proficiency and , a composite longbow is treated as if it were a longbow.

I say Strength instead of Dexterity to avoid make it an uber-powerful weapon. The fact that you still use Dexterity to attack allows Dexterity fighters to keep an edge in ranged combat. An you can even have a composite shortbow!

Crossbows? Exactly the same deal. Everyone can shoot a heavy crossbow, but if you're too weak you cannot draw it easily.

"Composite crossbow" sounds less familiar to me. I'm not an expert, TBH. But you can apply the same reasoning.

There is also a"compound crossbow" that sounds modern but interesting. Look at that (from Wikipedia):

(Compound bow): before the invention of compound bows, composite bows were described as "compound".[2] This usage is now outdated.

(Crossbow): A compound crossbow is a modern crossbow and is similar to a compound bow. The limbs are usually much stiffer than those of a recurve crossbow. This limb stiffness makes the compound bow more energy efficient than other bows, but the limbs are too stiff to be drawn comfortably with a string attached directly to them. The compound bow has the string attached to the pulleys, one or both of which has one or more cables attached to the opposite limb. When the string is drawn back, the string causes the pulleys to turn. This causes the pulleys to pull the cables, which in turn causes the limbs to bend and thus store energy. Other types of compound bows use either (one or both) cam shaped or eccentrically mounted pulleys in order to provide a "let off", such that the archer is not holding against the maximum draw weight of the bow while trying to aim. But, in a crossbow, the string is held back mechanically, so there is no advantage in providing a let off. Therefore, compound crossbows generally only use pulleys that are both round and concentrically mounted, in order to capture the maximum available energy from the relatively short draw length.

Not exactly what we're looking for... but I think the name is good enough.

Now, look at THIS guy from Dark Souls:

It looks a bit ridiculous... but also a bit awesome IMO. Shooting LANCES with your bow? Huge "dragonslayer" weapons?

Yeah, sounds good to me.

Instead of the whole "composite" stuff, just make damage a lot higher - 1d10 or even 1d12 - if you have high Strength (maybe 15 and 19, respectively).

So this becomes an ideal Barbarian weapon. It requires BOTH Str and Dex, and does AMAZING criticals!

What else? 

Huge crossbows! Something you might see Bard (from the Hobbit) or Bronn (from TV's GoT) using against dragons.

These are siege weapons, not something you can carry on your shoulder. The DMG mentions the Ballista, that requires three actions to attack and causes 3d10 damage (which is not that great; I would probably upgrade all siege weapons from the DMG if they were to be used against a single target, but maybe they are harder to hit...).

Use a Str check to load it, and Dex to hit it with, get rid of the "aiming" action... and you have a very cool weapon for the PCs to use, maybe even working together with a single purpose.

Since ballistae must be mounted on a castle or carriage, the PCs are unlikely to abuse it... but it makes for a great, epic moment when they manage to hit something with it!

Well, giant weapons might deserve a post of their own.

As for the strong archers, we've given them enough toys for today.

Friday, March 09, 2018

D&D 5e fighting styles: Thrown weapons

As we've discussed here, thrown weapons in 5e are basically a way of Str-based characters to gain some ranged options, but they are still a bit underwhelming when compared to ranged weapons.

Now, I'm not that concerned about "fixing" the mechanics. It is even a bit "realistic" that thrown weapons are sub-optimal in comparison to bows and crossbows. What bothers me is that the lack of decent thrown weapons excludes some popular archetypes, such as the knife thrower or rock hurler.

In fact, thrown weapons work well enough, but they lack a feat as useful as Sharpshooter, for example - one of the best feats in the game.

In order to "fix" thrown weapons we would have to give them a feat with:

* Better reach.
* Faster drawing/throwing.

Easy enough, right?

Thrown Weapon Master
You are expert at hurling weapons at your foes.
  • When you throw a weapon, its normal and long ranges are doubled.
  • You can draw a weapon with the "thrown" property as part of an attack you make it with, without spending your free object interaction. If you have multiple attacks, you can draw and throw a weapon for each one of them.
  • When you make a ranged attack with a thrown weapon, you do not have disadvantage on the attack roll if you are within 5 feet of a hostile creature who can see you and who isn't incapacitated.

  • Admittedly, throwing three or four javelins against someone who in standing withing 5 feet of you looks a bit silly. If this bothers you (although it is already int he game in the form of Crossbow Expert, you could probably limit the second and third bullet points to weapons that have the light or finesse property.

    Another thing 5e seems to be missing is the cool-looking Atlatl.

    Here is the 3e version:

    An Atlatl (otherwise known as a spear-hurler) is used in the aid of throwing a javelin. Using an Atlatl adds +10 ft to the javelin's range increment, and an amount to the damage roll, as shown on the table above, and a +2 competence bonus to the attack roll.

    A 5e version would be something like this:

    An Atlatl (otherwise known as a spear-hurler) is used in the aid of throwing a javelin. Using an Atlatl adds +20/+40 ft to the javelin's range, and increases its damage to 1d8.

    Enough to turn the javelin into a really fearsome weapon!

    And, finally, one of the most "exotic" weapons in the list... the net!

    Here is how it works in 5e:

    Martial) Ranged WeaponsCostDamageRangeWeightProperties

    Net1 gp5/153 lb.thrownspecial2

    Net: A Large or smaller creature hit by a net is restrained until it is freed. A net has no effect on creatures that are formless, or creatures that are Huge or larger. A creature can use its action to make a DC 10 Strength check, freeing itself or another creature within its reach on a success. Dealing 5 slashing damage to the net (AC 10) also frees the creature without harming it, ending the effect and destroying the net. When you use an action, bonus action, or reaction to attack with a net, you can make only one attack regardless of the number of attacks you can normally make.

    Retraining a creature is a pretty powerful:

    A restrained creature’s speed becomes 0, and it can’t benefit from any bonus to its speed. Attack rolls against the creature have advantage, and the creature’s Attack rolls have disadvantage. The creature has disadvantage on Dexterity saving throws.

    On the other hand, by RAW you always have disadvantage if you're using a net, because of its range.

    The use of a net as a dueling weapon is the mark of the Retiarius, picured above.

    Since the trident is such a useless weapon in 5e, is just too tempting to fix the two things at once:

    You are trained in the gladiatorial art of fighting with trident and net.

  • When you take the Attack action and attack with a net, you can use a bonus action to attack with a melee weapon that you’re holding in the other hand.
  • When you hold a trident with both hands, it gains the Reach property.
  • When you make a ranged attack with a net, spear or trident, its normal and long ranges are doubled.
  • When you hit a restrained enemy with a melee weapon, you add your proficiency bonus to damage.

  • The first bullet point could be done in reverse (i.e., use a bonus action to attack with a net), although I'm wary of giving advantage to every attack after that. The bonus damage is added both to mitigate the cost of diminishing the number of possible attacks and to make the feat useful in different circumstances.

    You might notice that if you keep your foe at 10 feet distance, you can attack with your trident... but it can't move to attack back until it gets rid of the net!

    Sounds like an awesome fighting style to me!

    UPDATE : I released a book (5e Manual of Arms: Weapons) that deals with weapons in 5e. Check it out below!

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    Friday, March 02, 2018

    Dark Fantasy Basic on sale (US$3.34)

    The Dark Fantasy Basic - Player's Guide is on sale until March 11th, due to the GM's Day sale!

    If you want to know more about the game before buying it, try this FAQ.

    Here is the blurb:

    Dark Fantasy Basic is an old school roleplaying game (or adventure game) that pays homage to a beloved 80's game - which is stilll, for many fans, one of the most concise, clear and well-written RPGs ever published.

    This book uses the same system as the world’s most popular RPGs – six abilities, classes, levels, etc. – and it is meant to be compatible with games from that era. Or any OSR game, really. It also has some modern influences, including all of the OSR and the most recent version of this game.

    This is a complete game (from the player's side), with five classes (fighter, cleric, thief, magic-user and hopeless), skills, feats, weapons, etc. There are no races - all PCs are human or similar - but there are notes on how to create races for your games. There are 20 different spells but each one is flexible, meaning you can choose the spell level and some of the effects as you cast them.

    The book ends with conversion notes for other OSR games. No matter what your favorite system is, we hope you find something useful for your games here!

    Check it out - and let me know what you think of it!

    If you enjoy reading the book, consider leaving a rating or review.