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

Sunday, September 26, 2021

So D&D 5.5e is really coming out in 2024 (official)

I thought we wouldn't know so soon, but apparently we are getting D&D 5.5e in 2024. 

I heard about this on Reddit. The talk was included in the Future of DnD panel (around 08 hours and 10 minutes in). As the redditor mentioned, "They used the words "new evolution" and "new version", but not "new edition". They also confirmed that it's going to be backwards compatible with 5e.".

"New version", "backwards compatible"... Crawford mentions that the game "is always evolving" in the video, Winniger is talking about "new versions of the core rulebooks" with feedback on existing classes... etc.

Yeah, I'm betting on something like 5.5e.

This will coincide with the 50 year anniversary of D&D.


My opinion? Well, I'm a bit surprised, but not excited nor disappointed. 

5e definitely needs a 5.5 version, because the new options in Tasha's and other books change some fundamental things about the game; so this is positive IMO. But I'm not really confident that they will improve the game a lot. Every change will have its fans and detractors, and making the game fundamentally simpler and more straightforward is basically impossible without alienating the (huge) fanbase that started playing with 5e. 

They are probably not fixing weapons and armor, and I'm not sure they even fix the champion (although at the very least I expected the beastmaster ranger to be improved!). I'm betting they'll add more options and few rules changes.

I'll probably be playing with 5e, the SRD and some house rules regardless of what WotC does at this point.

Also, we are getting a new monster book, Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse. I dunno, the Creature Codex is hard to beat. Well, we'll see.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

"Race requirements" (B/X) might be the best mechanic for fantasy "races"

I recently wrote a post about adding fantasy races to Dark Fantasy Basic.

Since then, I've been thinking about the various mechanics that D&D has used to implement fantasy. Basic D&D is somewhat unique in using "race as class" (i.e., you're either a dwarf OR a fighter). However, class and level limitations (i.e., a dwarf cannot be a wizard and can only advance until level 8 as a fighter) are common in old school D&D.

In modern D&D (3e, 4e and 5e), dwarf gets bonuses in certain abilities (Strength, Constitution, etc.); in some cases, there are penalties too.

This is somewhat limiting, both in mechanics (by making some race/class combination forbidden or so bad they won't exist in practice) and setting (some setting could have great dwarf wizards, for example, and every people should have its warriors). Of course, the settings might have its build in limitations - dwarven culture frowns upon magic, etc. - but this shouldn't necessarily be built into the mechanics.

In addition, there are people who object to playing creatures that are "dumb" or "weak" on average (although this is circumvented by giving EVERYONE - including humans - bonuses and no penalties... which is just semantics as dwarves are still dumber than humans on average, and occasionally makes humans better or worse than all others).

Anyway.

It occurred to me that having "minimum requirements" for some races solves lots of these (real or perceived) problems, and creates additional positive consequences.

Say, for example, that dwarves need Constitution 9 (assuming you're using 3d6 in order to generate attributes). This means that the most frail dwarves are still healthier than humans, but it DOESN'T say the dwarf is much more likely to be the toughest guy in the party - or that he is much more likely to be dumb or clumsy. It is just that, if he HAS a weakness, it is probably somewhere else. It also DOESN'T say he is limited in his class choices, etc. It does say that most dwarves are at least a bit healthy, which tells you something positive about each creature.

This limits player choice in an interesting way: if your Constitution is lower than 9, you cannot be a dwarf. So, your ability score rolls will suggest (but usually not force) not only class but also race.

It also makes sense. Want to play an ogre? Maybe you need Strength 13 minimum. You could negotiate a frailer specimen with your GM, etc., but usually ogres are strong, although some humans are even stronger.

In addition, this seems like the SIMPLEST mechanic available. It is binary. You do not have to recalculate or set limits to ability score or class. You can get a vague about how dwarf society might function, but you cannot pidgeon-hole dwarf individuals.

Of course, if dwarves get additional powers (darkvision), this has to be balanced somehow, but this is easily done by giving humans a power or two to compensate.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

The Curse of BloodStone Isle (5e dark fantasy Kickstarter by Mark Rein-Hagen)

The Curse of BloodStone Isle is in its final days on Kickstarter. This KS is a part of LOSTLORN - a dark fantasy roleplaying game by Mark Rein-Hagen (creator of World of Darkness), with the participation of many creations and artists.

I worked briefly in the project a while ago but ended up being unable to continue due to personal limitations. Still, I love many of the ideas included in the setting - vampire knights and pirates in a quasi-renaissance dark fantasy setting just sound awesome to me! It has all the trappings of a good setting. I'm very excited to see how the final product turns out.


The system is a modified version of 5e - new classes, skills, mechanics, etc.

Here is a small preview.

If you like dark fantasy, 5e, and MRH's work, you should check this KS out!

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Should monsters "know what they're doing"?

I haven't read much of The monsters now what they're doing, but I like what I've seen. 

It seems to be a collection of "combat tactics" at a first glance (i.e., how the monsters should behave in combat for optimal party-killing), but on a second glance it's actually a lot better than that: it contains relevant reflections about whether the monsters should fight (and continue fighting) in the first place:
When a corpse flower is seriously wounded (reduced to 50 hp or fewer), its self-preservation impulse kicks in to tell it that it’s not going to survive just by digesting its corpse collection. Lacking the Intelligence to Disengage, it Dashes away in whichever direction it senses the fewest enemies in.

(Bone knight)
Their Charisma is high enough that an encounter will probably involve some measure of parley, and maybe only parley—they understand, after all, that it’s better to get what you want without fighting if you can—but their social skill proficiencies are in Intimidation and Deception, so we’re not talking about good-faith negotiation here. Instead, this combination suggests to me that they’re about trying to get their opponents to capitulate, through a combination of outright bullying and more subtle manipulation. Any rhetorical maneuver an abuser might use is right up the bone knight’s alley: direct and indirect threats; negative reinforcement; false accusations; gaslighting; DARVO; demonstrations of explosive anger and sudden, unpredictable violence; dividing enemies by singling out individuals among them for particular blame; and so on.
I feel that this kind of reflection is even more valuable that "monster tactics", because it's more scarce in the "official" D&D 5e books. If anything, I'd like to see more of this kind of material instead of monster strategy and tactics.


Which is why I've added a chapter on "Roleplaying Monsters" in my Teratogenicon book, including all the stuff that I find lacking in 5e: reactions, morale, encounter distance, etc. Here is a bit:
Each monster has its own capacities, knowledge and
goals. Most monsters know nothing about the characters
and their powers, even if the GM does. Do not fall into the
trap of assuming the monster will always come to the right
conclusions. “The old guy with a staff is probably a sorcerer”
should be an uncommon line of thought – instead, he is
most likely someone that needs a walking aid, at least until
he casts a spell. A huge fighter with a sword, on the other
hand, is clearly someone you should watch.
Once the player characters start fighting and using their
abilities, some things will become obvious, and monsters
will react accordingly. Still, most monsters will not be able
to see the whole picture at once. One easy way to dealing
with this is assuming most monsters will attack whoever
hurt them most (individually, not as a group) since their last
turn, unless they have an obvious reason to do otherwise.
A good leader or tactician can change everything – he
can order the other monsters to work as a group, making
the best choices for their side even if he needs to sacrifice
a soldier or two. A good plan will make monsters ten
times more dangerous, at least until it is derailed. A careful
study of the PCs tactics will give the monsters an edge
(and vice-versa). 
In short, play monsters not as pawns, but as individuals.
Intelligent, experienced monsters will fight intelligently,
bestial monsters will fight instinctively, and stupid monsters
will often make dumb mistakes.
I've heard people say that there is no real "balance" in any D&D fight - if there was, the monsters would win about half the time! That's a fair criticism. "Balance" is a bit of a misnomer if the monsters are punching bags, meant to die in order to spend the PC's resources.

On the other hand, it might be worth remebering that monsters aren't traps. Their have their own issues. 

Why should every monster be waiting behind the door to kill the PCs? Why should they picks fights with someone more powerful (or even less powerful) that often? Should ma lion be an expert on fighting PCs... or hunting deer? Why should monsters be "fresh" for every fight? If PCs - who are, more or less, rational beings - get into half a dozen fights before dinner, how often would chaotic evil creatures fight each other? Why is it so rare to find wounded (or malformed), starved or cowardly creatures in published modules?

Then there is personality, society, diet, habitat, etc... D&D 5e is not particularly concerned about these issues, as we've seen. This makes monsters feel a bit one-dimensional unless you choose to do a "deep dive" like "The monsters now what they're doing" does.

Anyway, this makes me think that maybe monsters should sometimes choose suboptimal tactics. Maybe they are dumb, feral, os just desperate. They do not know that this is their last fight - why should they use every resource they have against the PCs? 

But this is a heavy burden to place over the shoulder of the GM. You cannot consider whether each monster has eaten or fought that day, or whether he is scared enough after a couple of wounds to keep fighting. 

That's why having specific procedures in place is very helpful. In addition to reaction, morale, and rolling randomly for HD before a fight, assigning random tactics and attacks is also an interesting idea. It is something that 13th Age and Low Fantasy Gaming do: "if the dragon rolls a 19, it uses breath weapon", etc. This is also helpful to overcome the urge to adjust the monster tactics to the convenience of the game (for example, making monsters fight more efficiently if the fight feels too easy, or, covnersely, "pulling punches" when you want to "save" the PCs).

Well, I guess this is something to consider for my next book - a collection of monsters inspired by Brazilian folklore. The first one has long claws, cloven hooves, the head of an anteater and subsides on small kittens and human brains. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Krevborna is the deal of the day!

Krevborna: A Gothic Blood Opera* is the deal of the day on DTRPG.

If you like Ravenloft. Bloodborne, or gothic horror and dark fantasy in general you must check this one out. If you follow this blog, this is right up your alley.

The author is Jack Shear, from Tales of Grotesque and Dungeonesque. He writes both OSR and 5e D&D stuff, and this book will work for any system.

I've played an AWESOME Krevborna campaign with him years ago, BEFORE the book, and he was kind enough to mention my name in page 2. Unfortunately, we lost touch after the demise of G+.

Anyway, I bought the final product and I love how it turned out! It is interesting, evocative and useful.

In short, this one is highly recommended!

Here is the blurb:

The blood moon rises above the haunted lands of Krevborna! Once a country of picturesque villages, deep forests, and sublime mountain ranges, Krevborna is now a land of Gothic ruins preyed upon by fiends, ravening beasts, and the unquiet dead. Shadows triumphantly lengthen across Krevborna; the great powers of darkness work to usher in the dread dominion of an everlasting empire of night.

Krevborna: A Gothic Blood Opera is a system-neutral campaign setting for Gothic Fantasy adventures inspired by BloodborneCastlevania, and Penny Dreadful. The book includes:

  • Art by Becky Munich and Michael Gibbons. Setting map by Michael Gibbons.
  • Details on nine locations in the setting: the corrupt city of Chancel, the Lovecraftian town of Creedhall, the witch-town of Hemlock, vampire haunted Lamashtu, the seaside horrors of Piskaro, the underworld of the Grail Tombs, the foreboding Nachtmahr Mountains, the eerie Silent Forest, and the forbidden town of Veil.
  • Information on the people of Krevborna and their folklore.
  • Ideas for genre-appropriate characters and the dark secrets that damn them.
  • Thirty-four otherworldly entities to use as patrons for the faithful and the pact-bound.
  • Eight factions and twelve NPCs to involve your players in intrigue.
  • Advice and tools for running a fantasy RPG influenced by Gothic literature.
  • Tools for use in game, such as copious adventure seeds, a bestiary of foes, random tables, and a comprehensive adventure generator that gives you the basis of a scenario with little prep.
  • A full index and a separate index of the book's random tables.
  • A design that prioritizes ease of use and speed of play. All "lore" entries are easy to scan, and make use of bullet points to draw your attention to the important bits so you can get on with your game.

 *These are all Affiliate links - by using them, you're helping to support this blog!

5e quick fix: classes

 My minimalist 5e project is going very slowly. It always seems that I have to choose between sticking close to 5e or going full minimalist. Anyway, I'm unsure about that one. I think I might release something anyway, just so people can play with that as they wish.

If you want to take a look or comment on it, I'll often be talking about it here in the blog, but I've also started a thread in the GitP forum. Feel free to participate!

With that said... 

5e is a decent enough game. Probably my second-favorite version of D&D. I get the feeling that the "fixes" it needs are minimal. So, instead of writing a minimalist version of 5e, maybe I should just use 5e with house rules? Or, as I call them, "quick fixes"? We'll see. I'm currently playing Shadow of the Demon Lord and I like it. But D&D still has something enticing for me.

Anyway, here are some small fixes, for example, that I'd add to existing classes. 

Fighter:

- Indomitable - when you re-roll, you have advantage.


- Improved crit also adds your prof bonus to crits.

- Expertise to athletics or acrobatics.

- Remarkable Athlete also applies to damage.

Paladin:

Divine Sense used at will.

Barbarian:

Frenzy: costs one HD instead of exhaustion.

Ranger.

Colossus Slayer: the extra damage is according to the target's HD (for example, giants would take an extra 1d10 or 1d12; 1d20 for gargantuan creatures. Colossus slayer indeed!)

Monk:

- Ki is equal to level + wis.

Sorcerer:

- Uses sorcery points exclusively. (TBH I want all spellcasters to do that, but that's another story...)

---

Any other quick fixes you would use for 5e?

Saturday, September 04, 2021

Better Intelligence/Charisma (5e quick fix)

I find Intelligence and Charisma to be of limited use for non-spellcasters (unlike Wisdom, which is very useful for defense). This optional rule gives them more value (notice, however, that there is another quick fix for that).


If you have a positive Intelligence modifier that doesn't grant you extra spells, you can pick one additional language, tool or weapon proficiency for each +1. If you have a positive Charisma modifier that doesn't grant you extra spells, you can pick one additional language, tool or weapon proficiency for each +1. For example, if your modifier is +2 you can get two extra languages, etc.  You can trade three languages (etc.) for one new skill.

(You could do the same for Wisdom, but, again, Wisdom saves are already very useful and the Perception skill is nearly ubiquitous. Also, in RP-heavy campaign you could have additional contacts based on Charisma, but that's is not such a "quick" fix since it involves more tinkering).

Now every one gets a new reason to have better Intelligence and Charisma, without making spell-casters more powerful than they already are - although some multi-classes might benefit a bit.