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.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Keeper & Son

This is a 5th-Edition D&D encounter set to The Shape by Dance With The Dead.

Since the action moves with the tracks, it's built as a Google Presentation where each slide should have all the information needed to run the fight for that track. A lot of the undead abilities unlikely to come up in the scenario have been tweaked or omitted to try and speed up play.

It's probably for levels 5-7, and is a place to stash the McGuffin of your choice behind a fun, combat-heavy encounter set to music.

Keeper & Son (slides)

Monday, August 29, 2016

Magic Bottles

Mason Jar

When dashed upon the ground, this jar shatters into 33 identical, though non-magical, jars.


Fill this glass pint bottle with wine or spirits and pass it around telling stories of a place or person, toasting each with "Wine scry, bottle mine". Whoever finishes the bottle can look through the mouth and see the subject of the tales through the bottom, like a terrible telescope. They're likely drunk by this point.

Witch Bottle

You must fill this bottle with three things: something of you (blood, or pee, or tears); something that binds (soil, or sand, or wine); and something sharp (nails, or pins, or evergreens).

The next time you would fail a saving throw against magic, the witch bottle instead fails for you, trapping the spell within it. It has a 1-in-6 chance of becoming a potion relevant to the spell it captured.

Killing Jar

Any creature closed in this quart-sized jar must pass a saving throw each round or die.

Moss-Glass Flask

Milky glass heavily flecked with furzy, dark-green spots makes the walls of this elaborate flask. Its stopper is carved from the pit of some unknown fruit.

This functions as an iron flask, but instead imprisons fey, and is significantly more breakable.

Jugged Hare

A gallon clay jug holds a long-dead rabbit in aspic and stringent herbs under a thin layer of the creature's own fat. If the jug is shattered, the creature lies still a round, before commencing to slowly crawl about, gasping and fluttering its hind legs. This pathetic minor undead cannot take commands or even defend itself, serving perhaps only as incriminating evidence or a minor diversion before expiring in a turn.

Alternatively, a tasty ration for two!

Hoard Gourd

This narrow-necked dry squash can hold any number of coin-sized items, but they must be placed into it one at a time. Each takes a round to poke down, or a round to shake out, and order of retrieval is not assured.

When discovered, choose a coin type appropriate to the situation (copper for goblins, gold for dragons, as the saying goes). Roll as many d6 as seem appropriate, but each explodes on a 5 or better. Add rings or gems on doubles.

A general sense of the number of items the gourd holds can be had by shaking it, from a dull rattling for a single coin to a distant sloshing and sliding for thousands of coins. Breaking it open reveals only a dry, pithy interior and a many tiny seeds. They're actually sufficient to serve as a ration.

However, if the seeds are sown over an acre or so of fair soil, and cared for as a crop over the course of a year, roll 2d6 here, modified as appropriate by the skill of the farmer:
  • 3 or less: This harvest appears healthy, but anyone eating of it instead suffers as if they have starved a day. Anyone who dies of this starvation rises as a zombie the next day. (Use your favorite plant-zombie.)
  • 7-4: A healthy crop of gourds, particularly well-suited to preservation.
  • 8-9: As above, plus 1d4 empty hoard gourds, if the farmer is clever enough to recognize them.
  • 10 or more: As above, plus one hoard gourd has drawn something precious into it as it grew.


A round glass bottle whose bottom half is wrapped in straw, some of which is hitched upward to connect with the neck, forming a handle. It is a void of good luck and proper decision making - when opened, such things within a large range are sucked into it and devoured.

No critical hits or critical successes are possible within this area. Spells that grant bonuses to attacks, checks, or saving throws are suppressed. Fumbles, failures, and penalties all operate normally.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Other uses for 5e Hit Dice

Hit Dice in 5e seem underutilized as a resource. I have no idea if this is intentional design, but here are some other possibilities.

  • To power class abilities.
    • Berserker barbarians' Frenzy ability could burn HD instead of causing exhaustion.
    • A paladin's lay on hands ability could let them spend HD on another's behalf. That seems a little more sacrificial to me, and is swingier that picking an exact number of HP.
    • Probably some sorcerer abilities, but who cares.
    • Maybe a warlock invocation that lets you burn HD into spell slots. Seems like an appropriate risky sacrifice for power for that class.
  • Magic item fuel. I did this once already.
    • You could make attunement to an item in general require investing a HD in it, if you wanted to reduce magic item use a bit.
    • Healing potions that let you spend hit dice would scale automatically to the character using them, based on HD size and Con modifier.
    • Ring of X-Ray vision could eat HD instead of inflicting exhaustion.
  • Instead of reducing max HP, damage caused by certain undead could also use up a hit die. They come back on their own at a long rest already, so no special rules needed on the monster. If the undead can create spawn, they do so by killing a creature with no HD remaining.
  • Potions that restore HD.
  • Diseases could eat away at HD.
  • Spells that allow HD to be used, like 4e healing surges. Healing Word seems like an interesting candidate.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Path of the Pact-Maddened

Whispers and promises from impossible voices drive the pact-maddened barbarian into a supernatural frenzy. They surprise their opponents by weaving arcane magics among their formidable physical prowess.

When you first choose this path, choose a patron from the Warlock class.

3rd level - Pact Magic

You can cast a small number of spells granted by your patron. Charisma is your ability modifier for these spells.

You learn a warlock cantrip of your choice which you can cast at will.

You learn a warlock invocation of your choice.

You can cast one of the 1st-level spells from your patron's expanded spell list. Choose which at the time of casting. Your spell slot level is 1 when you cast a spell this way. Once you use this feature you can't use it again until you finish a short or long rest.

At higher levels more spells from the extended spell list become available, and your spell slot level for all such spells increases.
  • 6th level - 2nd level spells become available, and your spell slot level becomes 2. You learn a warlock invocation of your choice.
  • 10th level - 3rd level spells become available, and your spell slot level becomes 3. You learn another warlock cantrip of your choice.
  • 14th level - 4th level spells become available, and your spell slot level becomes 4. You learn a warlock invocation of your choice.

3rd level - Conduit of Rage

You can cast warlock cantrips while raging, and add your barbarian rage damage to damage dealt by your warlock cantrips while doing so.

Casting a warlock cantrip counts as attacking a hostile creature for purposes of maintaining your rage.

6th level - Paroxysm

If you hit with two melee weapon attacks using Strength in a single round, you can use your bonus action to cast a warlock cantrip.

10th level - Lucid Rage

While raging, you may cast an available spell from your patron's expanded spell list. Doing so counts as attacking a hostile creature for purposes of maintaining your rage. (This is a separate spell than the one granted by Pact Magic.)

Once you use this feature you can't use it again until you finish a short or long rest.

14th level - Induct by Force

If you score a critical hit while raging, the target must make a Charisma saving throw (DC 8 + your Charisma modifier + your proficiency bonus). If it fails, it becomes charmed by you.

The charmed target must use its action before moving on each of its turns to make a melee attack against a creature other than itself that you mentally choose.

The target can act normally on its turn if you choose no creature or if none are within its reach.

All charm effects end when your rage ends. Also the target can make a Wisdom saving throw at the end of each of its turns. On a success, the charm ends.