Sunday, February 4, 2018

Goblin Names

Quick d50 table for generating goblin names. Roll twice, and consider adding "-y" or "-er" to the result. Some tests:
  • wormhag
  • bucketmilk
  • touchcrow
  • hogcapper
  • chubwee
  • wax nurse
1-2: wiggle
3-4: papa
5-6: pulp
7-8: slurp
9-10: uncle
11-12: hog
13-14: juice
15-16: kiss
17-18: eel
19-20: hunch
21-22: wee
23-24: nub
25-26: cap
27-28: jowl
29-30: friend
31-32: egg
33-34: tail
35-36: wax
37-38: curd
39-40: skin
41-42: berry
43-44: pig
45-46: whisker
47-48: knuckle
49-50: pluck
51-52: gut
53-54: puss
55-56: hag
57-58: clutch
59-60: mama
61-62: bump
63-64: cow
65-66: blossom
67-68: crow
69-70: bucket
71-72: snail
73-74: suck
75-76: chunk
77-78: worm
79-80: nail
81-82: munch
83-84: milk
85-86: dirt
87-88: auntie
89-90: nurse
91-92: touch
93-94: crinkle
95-96: grunt
97-98: grin
99-100: chub

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Hit Dice and Magic

I have written before about finding more uses for Hit Dice in 5th edition D&D. Here are a couple more ideas.

These make more sense if you consider a HD to be some manifestation of your will. Normally you use it to pull your own body back together from injury, but why not spread it around?

Wizards Copying Spells

Instead of spending 50 gold per spell level on rare inks and such to copy a spell into a wizard's spellbook, spend 2 HD per spell level.

You can split the effort across multiple rests. (1st-level wizards must do this.)

Specialists only need to spend 1 HD per spell level for spells in their school.

This seems like a reasonable extension of the wizard's will. I also tend to play in resource-scarce settings where there's never an opportunity to buy or make these inks. Also makes wizards a bit squishier, or opens up interesting possibilities around periods of vulnerabilities for wizards.

Instead of Costly Components

I've never really been a fan of the component system for magic since 3rd edition. That's probably a different post.

Require the caster to expend HD instead of requiring material components with a gp cost for spells. Most spells which require costly components are creating some kind of lingering effect or awareness or imposition of will - if you think of spending HD as imbuing something else with a sliver of yourself this works out fine.

Quick look at the spells with costly components in the SRD, I would break them down like this:
  • 1 HD: Arcane Lock, Augury, Divination, Find Familiar, Guards And Wards, Illusory Script, Magic Mouth, Magnificent Mansion, Nondetection, Programmed Illusion, Project Image, Teleportation Circle, True Seeing
  • 2 HD: Arcane Sword, Circle Of Death, Clairvoyance, Continual Flame, Find The Path, Glyph Of Warding, Greater Restoration, Identify, Legend Lore, Magic Circle ,Magic Jar, Raise Dead, Revivify, Stoneskin, Warding Bond
  • 3 HD: Awaken, Contingency, Forbiddance, Forcecage, Hallow, Heroes' Feast, Holy Aura, Instant Summons, Planar Binding, Reincarnate, Resurrection, Scrying, Shapechange, Simulacrum, Symbol
  • 4HD: Clone, Gate, Sequester
Then there are are a few weird ones:
  • Astral Projection: 2 HD per subject
  • Create Undead: 1 HD per corpse
  • Imprisonment: 1 HD per HD
  • Secret Chest: Breaks all the rules. At a wash, the creation of the miniature chest takes a HD, and the creation of the large chest takes another, which it keeps. If you lose the large chest you lose a HD. Adventure onto the ethereal plane to get it back.
  • True Resurrection: 1 HD per HD 
Your wizards will look at this change like some kind of godsend, until an expedition doesn't go as planned, or an assassin sneaks into their home following the theft of a spellbook.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Low-HP 5e

Some quick ideas on how to lower the HP cap for PCs and NPCs. There's lots of discussion around why you'd want to do this, but some reasons you might consider:
  • De-emphasizes combat.
  • Emphasizes social solutions and creative problem solving.
  • Encourages DM to come up with interesting interactions with NPCs.
  • Up the realism.
  • Monsters stay monstrous.
  • Don't have to worry about balancing encounters.
Some relevant discussion here. I also swear I read a good article about capping HP in LoTFP or other such OSR recently but I can't find it for the life of me.

Note that while these changes should be applied to most NPCs and humanoids if they're being applied to the players, they should not be applied to monsters.

Constitution == Max HP.

Probably the most drastic change. A 1st-level character under this option is likely to be a little tougher than by default, but it's slow going from there. Only by increasing your Constitution score will your max HP increase, and even then it's a soft cap of 20 and a hard cap of 30.

I would probably limit characters to a single HD under this system.

This has the added benefit of being simple to apply to NPCs.

Ability Score Increase == HD.

Every four levels or so, you get another HD. Your max HP increases like the default rules.

This should produce gradual progress, and not require many other changes, but still have PCs with only about a fifth their default HP resources.

For NPCs you could probably just divide their HP and HD by 5 (round up).

Interesting side effect: High-level Fighters will end up with more HD than other classes.


You get HD and max HP normally until level 4 or so. Then you stop.

Pretty easy to eyeball this for NPCs. Since there's a cap you could even make a little table of Level/Con Modifier. Like this!

Con \ HD

You'll never have to track more than 30 points of damage on an NPC under this approach.

Small Max HP Per Level

Your max HP increases each level, but only by an amount fixed by your class, or your Constitution modifier, whichever is greater (minimum 1).

I'd probably set the per-class level based on a ranking of HD, so:
  1. Sorcerer, Wizard
  2. Bard, Cleric, Druid, Monk, Rogue, Warlock
  3. Fighter, Paladin, Ranger
  4. Barbarian
NPCs that use d8 for HD end up with about 40% of their default HP.

Magic Considerations

Under any of these, spells that grant HP increases like aid and heroes' feast become much more powerful. I would consider reducing any increases to max HP based on the spell level, or they'll likely become something the party feels like they always have to cast, and that's not interesting. Aid might grant 2 HP per level of casting instead of 5, for example.

Low-level healing spells remain useful for much longer, which means more high-level spell slots are available for other types of magic.

High-level destructive spells become one of the few hopes of defeating high-level monsters in direct combat, which feels right in a certain kind of game. Wizards and sorcerers become more like the glass cannons of older editions.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Heraldic Beasts

They are tied to the fortunes of a family. As the house gains in size and influence, its beast's HD increases. A new and minor house's beast has 1 HD. The royal family has two or three 10 HD beasts.

These creatures appear to sprout from a steel breastplate like an unruly houseplant. They generally drop to all fours to move, standing somewhat awkwardly in combat or when wielding their implements.

Heraldic beasts cannot have more than 10 HD. They split into two beasts if their family's influence would push them above such; the split need not be even. Few houses with more than one heraldic beast survive long before a schism.

HD 1 to 10    AC Breastplate    Bite Average
Move    As human    Int Cunning    Morale    Average

Heraldic Morale: Members of the family the beast embodies who can clearly see and hear it use its Morale or their own, whichever is greater.

The beast is normally fearless, only rolling its Morale when in beast duels.

Beast Duels

A common way to resolve disputes between nobles.

First a region for the contest must be agreed upon. This can take years if the nobles involved are more concerned with saving face than actually dealing each other harm. Disagreements over a duel's boundaries have been known to spark further duels, however.

The borders of the agreed region are clearly marked with flags bearing each nobles' colors and symbols. Each party is expected to contribute equally to the production of these flags, a fact which tends to prevent less-wealthy houses from competing with those with more capital or risk bankrupting themselves before the challenge begins.

Once the area has been marked by retainers, each house's heraldic beast is escorted to an opposing edge. The beasts understand the intent of this challenge, and will not willingly pass the flagged boundaries once engaged.

Within the boundaries, once a house's beast breaks from or submits in combat, the challenge is over. The family loses whatever stakes or honor were placed on the challenge, and will generally lose influence over the next few years, causing the beast to lose HD as well. A beast which defeats a higher HD beast is likely to earn status for its family and increase in HD accordingly.

Having one's heraldic beast kill another in such a contest is not unheard of but is considered distasteful in the same way as assassinations are.


Several heraldic forms grant a beast the ability to cast find familiar. They can have as many familiars at a time as they can cast the spell in a day. The forms their familiars take are favored as pets and guardians by members of their families.

Sample Heraldic Beasts

Heraldic beasts are traditionally given plural names which indicate ownership by their family.

The Bards of Shaelie

HD 9    AC Breastplate    Two Bites Average
Move    As human    Int Human    Morale    High

Owl: Only surprised 1-in-6
Crown: Increase Morale.
Ivy: Cast find familiar 1/day (it's a mass of vines and fruits).
Paws: Increase stealth.
Two-headed: Roll another head.
    Crow: Increase Int
Torch: Sheds light as a torch. Easier to see.
Arrows: Cast magic missile 2/day.

Familiar: A mossy sparrow.

The Gungutch Reapers

HD 2    AC Breastplate    Bite Average
Fly    As horse    Int Cunning    Morale    High

Lion: Increase Morale
Chained collar: Cast find familiar 1/day.
Spots: Increase stealth.
Hooves: Increase Move.
Winged: Grant a flying speed equal to its normal Move.
Farm implement: A slow but average-damage melee attack. Cast find familiar 1/day.
Fruit: Cast cure light wounds 2/day.

Familiars: A farm mouse. A farm cat.

The Nagas of Yenwidge

HD 4    AC Breastplate and Shield    Horns Average
Move or Swim    As human    Int Cunning    Morale    Average

Ram: Horn attack instead of bite.
Mane: Increase armor.
Stars: Sheds candlelight; cast magic missile 1/day.
Fins: Grant a swimming speed equal to its normal Move. Can hold its breath for an hour.
Long neck: Head attacks gain reach. Extra visible.
Spear or trident: An average-damage melee attack with reach.
Sword: An average-damage melee attack.

Penthilette's Bitter Herd

HD 5    AC Breastplate and Shield    Bite Heavy; Antlers Average
Move    As horse    Int Cunning    Morale    High

Boar: Increase bite damage.
Antlers: Increase or gain horn attack.
Wounds: Ignores lesser injuries (such as those which would deal less damage than its HD).
Hooves: Increase Move.
Dangerous tail: Stinger: An additional poison attack.
Shield: Add +shield to armor.
Flowers or herbs: Cast sleep 1/day. Cast protection 1/day.

Heraldic Forms

Any spells are cast as a caster level equal to the beast's HD.

The head reminds you of a (d12)
  1. Lion: Increase Morale.
  2. Fox: Increase Int.
  3. Serpent: Poisonous bite.
  4. Eagle: Only surprised 1-in-6.
  5. Stag: Horn attack instead of bite.
  6. Wolf: Increase bite damage.
  7. Ram: Horn attack instead of bite.
  8. Owl: Only surprised 1-in-6.
  9. Crow: Increase Int.
  10. Horse: Increase Move.
  11. Dragon: Increase bite damage.
  12. Boar: Increase bite damage.
The head is adorned with (d10)
  1. Crown: Increase Morale.
  2. Mane: Increase armor.
  3. Chained collar: Cast find familiar 1/day.
  4. Tusks: Increase bite damage.
  5. Antlers: Increase or gain horn attack.
  6. Flames: Attack also deals average fire damage.
  7. Long tongue: Speak (but not understand) any language.
  8. Beard: Increase Int.
  9. Horns: Increase or gain horn attack.
  10. Floating crown: Cast bless 1/day.
The beast is covered in (d8)
  1. Lurid colors: Extra visible. Extra intimidating. Decrease stealth.
  2. Spots: Increase stealth.
  3. Scales: Increase armor.
  4. Mist: Cast fog cloud 1/day.
  5. Ivy: Cast find familiar 1/day (it's a mass of vines and fruits).
  6. Wounds: Ignores lesser injuries (such as those which would deal less damage than its HD).
  7. Stars: Sheds candlelight; cast magic missile 1/day.
  8. Shell: Increase armor greatly; lower Move.
Its limbs tend towards (d6)
  1. Claws: An additional average-damage claw attack.
  2. Paws: Increase stealth.
  3. Fins: Grant a swimming speed equal to its normal Move. Can hold its breath for an hour.
  4. Talons: A fast but low-damage claw attack.
  5. Hooves: Increase Move.
  6. No forelimbs. Anything it wields floats. Roll again for hindlimbs.
Oh, and (d4)
  1. Winged: Grant a flying speed equal to its normal Move.
  2. Long neck: Head attacks gain reach. Extra visible.
  3. Two-headed: Roll another head.
  4. Dangerous tail: Roll another d4:
  5. Stinger: An additional poison attack.
  6. Another head (roll d12): It can bite and speak.
  7. Spiked ball: An additional slow but heavy-damage attack.
  8. Dazzling display: Cast charm person 1/day
Each heraldic beast wields two implements (d20 twice)
  1. Sword: An average-damage melee attack.
  2. Spear or trident: An average-damage melee attack with reach.
  3. Axe or mace: A slow but heavy-damage melee attack.
  4. Dagger or knife: A fast but light-damage melee attack.
  5. Farm implement: A slow but average-damage melee attack. Cast find familiar 1/day.
  6. Torch: Sheds light as a torch. Easier to see.
  7. Shield: Add +shield to armor.
  8. Arrows: Cast magic missile 2/day.
  9. Harp: Cast charm person 2/day.
  10. Orb: Cast light 2/day.
  11. Bell: Cast alarm 2/day
  12. Lightning: Cast light 1/day. Cast magic missile 1/day.
  13. Banners: Cast find familiar 2/day.
  14. Fruit: Cast cure light wounds 2/day.
  15. Book: Cast detect magic 2/day.
  16. Flowers or herbs: Cast sleep 1/day. Cast protection 1/day.
  17. Shells: Cast silence 1/day.
  18. Key: Cast knock 1/day.
  19. Horn: Force a morale roll 1/day on all who hear. Enemies who fail break. Allies who had previous failed a morale roll rally.
  20. Wheel: Re-roll a saving throw 1/day.
See also  

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Brenton's Isle

Here is a 3-hour, 5th-edition D&D adventure I ran for my brother and his 3 friends, none of whom had ever played a pen-and-paper game before.

We had an email thread beforehand to make 1st level characters. There is still a lot to figure out for character creation in 5th edition. Some influences as to what D&D might look like were Record of Lodoss War and some images from the grindhouse edition of Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

The characters were all great, with interesting backstories and personalities that were not overbearing. It was a group of naturals. Maybe it helps that they all play Gloomhaven a lot?

My brother had also mentioned the desire to do an "iconic" adventure as his first. After discussion with some friends, and the email thread, I decided D&D couldn't get more iconic than a dragon in a dungeon. So here it is - maybe it will be a first adventure for someone else.

Cartography by Dyson Logos is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Social and Personal Alignments

Give characters and intelligent monsters two alignments.

Their Social Alignment is how they behave due to culture or obligation. It's mostly a role-playing aid and somewhat subject to change based on circumstance.

Their Personal Alignment represents their core beliefs. This is how they'll act in times of stress, low morale, or surprise. It is their "true colors", and if your game has alignment-detection spells, what they will reveal.

If an NPC has conflicting alignments, as a GM you can play them off each other to create a more nuanced interaction with relatively little effort.

For PCs, this can present another convenient role-playing aid. I think a lot of players do this implicitly for their characters, anyway.

Non-intelligent creatures, or those strongly associated with a particular alignment, like angels and demons, probably still only have one alignment. Sometimes multiple alignments could still make sense in this case. The trope of the fiend who acts civilized but descends into a fury when their plans are thwarted could be represented by a Lawful Evil social alignment and a Chaotic Evil personal alignment.

You can tack this onto pretty much any game that uses an alignment system. Maybe not LotFP, or other games where alignments are cosmic forces.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

More Magic Bottles

A continuation of this post for some reason.


An unremarkable brown clay pot. Anyone viewing it for more than a few moments is in danger of becoming infatuated with it, and anyone possessing it is compelled to display it proudly and prominently.

Decadent deca-ant decanter

Fancy stoppered bottle gives a crawling sensation when held. It contains 10 ants which will grow to giant size within one round when removed from the bottle - no special control over these vermin is granted by the bottle, however.

Essence Flacon

A delicate rose-glass bottle with a detachable gold-and-silk atomizer. When a coin-sized amount of any substance is placed within and the atomizer squeezed, the sample is dispersed as a cloud of scent. Anything can be thus processed, and the smell will be recognizable even for things normally without scent. A mist of diamond will smell like diamond.

Alchemist's Paraphernalia

Each of these oddly shaped flasks and tubes holds a different minor enchantment. When filled with water, they will cause the following purely cosmetic effects for a day. Just the thing no self-respecting alchemist can be without upon their shelves.

A … liquid with... That are... and...
1 red stripes clear sediment
2 orange abscesses pearly filaments
3 yellow whorls glowing specks
4 green rushes twitching bubbles
5 blue frescoes hissing froth
6 purple blooms vacancies yine

Thrential's Infuser

The sage Thrential was, according to himself, an "explorer of the spirit", and according to his associates, a drunk. He commissioned the creation of this lens-like bottle to allow the extraction of interesting flavors into pure grain alcohol.

In addition to its mundane functions (which it performs superbly), if the center chamber is filled with a potion and the device is left to work for a week, there is a 1-in-6 chance the resulting liquor can function as two doses of the potion. Though the original potion is never ruined, any potion resulting from this process has a 6-in-6 chance of getting the imbiber ruinously drunk.

Trollskin Wineskin

Any liquid stored in this warty green leather pouch will remain fresh and unspoiled indefinitely.

Bottle Rocket

A clear glass bottle full of violently darting, glowing motes. Functions as a wand of magic missiles, but also sheds light as a torch until the last charge is spent.