Friday, 26 September 2014

Dolmenwood: Moss Dwarf Generator (Rough)

The next in the slow-burning series of Dolmenwood thing-generators (see Greg's fabulous goatman generator), I present the draft version of the moss dwarf generator. Lord Gorgonmilk is working on a properly laid-out version in the same style as the goatman one, so for now just the raw information...

If there are any moss artists out there who feel inspired to create an illustration for the generator, please get in touch! (Google+ or email over there in the sidebar.)

Moss Dwarf
Intelligent Humanoid
15% Liar
Reaction (1d6)
1. Fearful
2. Evasive
3. Indifferent
4. Willing to barter
5. Curious
6. Jolly

No. Appearing 1d6
Hit Dice: 1
Diet: Fungus, Cheese, Sausages
Moss dwarfs are an obscure, stunted race of demi-humans with an affinity for the dank plants and moulds of the deep woods. Although they are called “dwarfs” it is, amongst sages who specialise in the classification of sentient races, a matter of debate as to whether there is indeed any relation between moss dwarfs and true dwarfs. Some speculate that they are in fact more closely related to gnomes or are the stunted offspring of stump-dryads.

Living exclusively in dark, dank forests, moss dwarfs usually only gather in small numbers. They typically live together in small family units, with four to ten families forming an isolated community. Despite their lack of contact with other races, they are curious and jovial, in a slow, earthy way, and welcome occasional visitors. Moss dwarfs are, above all, burrowers, delving their homes into the damp earth of their forest abodes or inhabiting natural caves where they are found. They are, in any case, no masters of stonework or construction. Their homes are furnished with brightly varnished, homemade wooden objects in a charming, higgledy-piggledy style.

Their symbiotic relationship with fungus and moulds makes moss dwarfs master brewers and fermenters of hog cheese. They are also immune to dangerous fungal spores or poisons. An individual moss dwarf lives for several centuries, becoming wiser and more plant-like over this lifespan. Moss dwarfs compost their dead, keeping communal heaps in prominent locations among their communities. Their bodies are such that even the bones rot away to mould.

Moss dwarf colonies of note are located in hexes 1405 and 1605.

1. None (9 [12])*
2. None (9 [12])*
3. None (9 [12])*
4. None (9 [12])*
5. Birch bark (8 [13])
6. Cork (8 [13])
7. Hog leather (8 [13])
8. Oak bark (7 [14])
9. Pinecone (7 [14])
10. Ring mail (6 [15]) (really made of rings)

(* roll on the “style” table, below)

1. Fists (1d3)
2. Knife (1d4)
3. Sickle (1d4)
4. Sling (1d6)
5. Axe (1d6)
6. Pitchfork (1d6)
7. Cudgel (1d6)
8. Staff (1d6)
9. Spear (1d6)
10. Short sword (1d6)

Facial Feature
1. Orb-like eyes which weep yellow pus
2. Eyes furred over with orange fungus
3. Miniature tree growing from one ear
4. Ears grown larger than the hands
5. Long, floppy nose
6. Long, pointy nose
7. Mouth foaming with yeast
8. Darting, black tongue
9. Nostrils ooze purple slime
10. Eyes like pools of deep space

1. Frothing with yeast
2. Ivy down to toes
3. Luxuriant moss
4. Cascading ferns
5. Pussy willow
6. Tasty watercress
7. Beansprouts
8. Wispy catkins
9. Twigs
10. Fungal mycelia

(* always a touchy topic, the presence of beards on female moss dwarfs is left to the referee’s preference.)

Mould Level
1. Fresh like spring dew
2. The odd patch of lichen
3. Edible mushrooms growing in hair
4. Cultivated yeast infections
5. Slick, mossy skin
6. Toadstools growing from joints
7. Covered in slimy green jelly
8. Puffball growths
9. Riddled with mycelia
10. More mushroom now than dwarf

1. Simpleton (5)
2. Bumpkin (6)
3. Slow-witted (7)
4. Dull (8)
5. Average (9)
6. Average (10)
7. Average (11)
8. Cunning (12)
9. Learned (13)
10. Sagacious (14)

1. Mumbling
2. Squelchy
3. Squeaking
4. Grumbling
5. Annoying
6. Meandering
7. Phlegmy
8. Filthy
9. Obtuse
10. Baritone

1. Know the number of items in someone’s pockets
2. Smell cheese from a mile off
3. Tell the age of wood by touching it
4. Command small stones to jump and skip
5. Speak with root vegetables
6. Songs coax simple locks to open
7. Cause sweet liquids to ferment by touch
8. Breath causes leaves to freshen
9. Charm woodland birds
10. Whistle to tie or untie strings

(* The knacks of moss dwarfs are usually classified by wizards as simple cantrips. Elder dwarfs may, however, develop their knacks to greater potency.)

1. Cheese
2. Mushrooms
3. Mould
4. Mud
5. Dung
6. Rain
7. Cut wood
8. Yeast
9. Beer
10. Resin

1. Naturist
2. Loin cloth
3. Grubby rags
4. Scratchy wool
5. Pelts
6. Woodsy
7. Pig suede
8. Cosy knitwear
9. Brushed felt
10. Dapper tweed

1. Swine-cheese
2. Nice mushrooms
3. Nasty mushrooms
4. Psychedelic mushrooms
5. Sack of yeast
6. Fermented pig-semen
7. Stringy boar sausage
8. Frothy ale
9. Nuts & berries
10. Strange brew

1. Mice in hair/beard
2. Pocket full of centipedes
3. Curious squirrel
4. Pilfering racoon
5. Slugs in pants
6. Worms up sleeve
7. Wise snail on head
8. Sentient mushroom
9. Piglet on a leash
10. Burping toad

1. 1d6 cp
2. 3d6 cp
3. 1 sp
4. 1d3 sp
5. 1d6 sp
6. 1d6 +2 sp
7. 1d6 + 4 sp
8. 2d6 sp
9. 2d6 +1 sp
10. 3d6 sp

1. Whisky bottle under hat
2. Wonky spectacles
3. Shrunken hand
4. Shovel and sack of coal
5. Birthday cake
6. Locket with quaint portrait
7. Pouch of wings
8. Jar of forest ants
9. Subterranean map
10. Gourd flute

Saturday, 20 September 2014

D&D 5: Spells by School

As I previously mentioned, I've been mulling over some ideas for tweaking the wizard class in D&D 5. Not that it really needs tweaking -- I like it well enough as it is -- but, well, it's inspired me to think about some alternative ideas which might be fun too.

The main idea I have in mind is to make school specialization stricter, so that specialists can only cast spells from their chosen school. The big boon being, however, that they can also cast spells from the spell lists of other classes (including clerical spells, for instance). A wizard who chooses to remain non-specialized (which I also have in mind as an option) would be limited to spells from the standard wizard list.

So, what would these super-focused spell lists look like? Here you go -- all spells in the D&D 5 PHB, by school, irrespective of class:

[Update: I've formatted these lists, also including the spells from the Elemental Evil Companion, as a 2-page PDF which you can download here.]

Blade Ward (0)
Resistance (0)
Alarm (1)
Armor of Agathys (1)
Mage Armor (1)
Protection from Evil and Good (1)
Sanctuary (1)
Shield (1)
Shield of Faith (1)
Aid (2)
Arcane Lock (2)
Lesser Restoration (2)
Pass without Trace (2)
Protection from Poison (2)
Warding Bond (2)
Beacon of Hope (3)
Counterspell (3)
Dispel Magic (3)
Glyph of Warding (3)
Magic Circle (3)
Nondetection (3)
Protection from Energy (3)
Remove Curse (3)
Aura of Life (4)
Aura of Purity (4)
Banishment (4)
Death Ward (4)
Freedom of Movement (4)
Mordenkainen's Private Sanctum (4)
Antilife Shell (5)
Banishing Smite (5)
Circle of Power (5)
Dispel Evil and Good (5)
Greater Restoration (5)
Planar Binding (5)
Forbiddance (6)
Globe of Invulnerability (6)
Guards and Wards (6)
Symbol (7)
Antimagic Field (8)
Holy Aura (8)
Mind Blank (8)
Imprisonment (9)
Prismatic Wall (9)

Acid Splash (0)
Mage Hand (0)
Poison Spray (0)
Produce Flame (0)
Arms of Hadar (1)
Create or Destroy Water (1)
Ensnaring Strike (1)
Entangle (1)
Find Familiar (1)
Fog Cloud (1)
Grease (1)
Hail of Thorns (1)
Tenser's Floating Disk (1)
Unseen Servant (1)
Cloud of Daggers (2)
Find Steed (2)
Flaming Sphere (2)
Misty Step (2)
Web (2)
Call Lightning (3)
Conjure Animals (3)
Conjure Barrage (3)
Create Food and Water (3)
Hunger of Hadar (3)
Revivify (3)
Sleet Storm (3)
Spirit Guardians (3)
Stinking Cloud (3)
Conjure Minor Elementals (4)
Conjure Woodland Beings (4)
Dimension Door (4)
Evard's Black Tentacles (4)
Grasping Vine (4)
Guardian of Faith (4)
Leomund's Secret Chest (4)
Mordenkainen's Faithful Hound (4)
Cloudkill (5)
Conjure Elemental (5)
Conjure Volley (5)
Insect Plague (5)
Mass Cure Wounds (5)
Teleportation Circle (5)
Tree Stride (5)
Arcane Gate (6)
Conjure Fey (6)
Drawmij's Instant Summons (6)
Heroes' Feast (6)
Planar Ally (6)
Transport via Plants (6)
Wall of Thorns (6)
Word of Recall (6)
Conjure Celestial (7)
Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion (7)
Plane Shift (7)
Teleport (7)
Demiplane (8)
Incendiary Cloud (8)
Maze (8)
Tsunami (8)
Gate (9)
Mass Heal (9)
Storm of Vengeance (9)
Wish (9)

Guidance (0)
True Strike (0)
Comprehend Languages (1)
Detect Evil and Good (1)
Detect Magic (1)
Detect Poison and Disease (1)
Hunter's Mark (1)
Identify (1)
Speak with Animals (1)
Augury (2)
Beast Sense (2)
Detect Thoughts (2)
Find Traps (2)
Locate Animals or Plants (2)
Locate Object (2)
See Invisibility (2)
Clairvoyance (3)
Tongues (3)
Arcane Eye (4)
Divination (4)
Locate Creature (4)
Commune (5)
Commune with Nature (5)
Contact Other Plane (5)
Legend Lore (5)
Rary's Telepathic Bond (5)
Scrying (5)
Find the Path (6)
True Seeing (6)
Foresight (9)

Friends (0)
Vicious Mockery (0)
Animal Friendship (1)
Bane (1)
Bless (1)
Charm Person (1)
Command (1)
Compelled Duel (1)
Heroism (1)
Hex (1)
Sleep (1)
Tasha's Hideous Laughter (1)
Animal Messenger (2)
Calm Emotions (2)
Crown of Madness (2)
Enthrall (2)
Hold Person (2)
Suggestion (2)
Zone of Truth (2)
Compulsion (4)
Confusion (4)
Dominate Beast (4)
Dominate Person (5)
Geas (5)
Hold Monster (5)
Modify Memory (5)
Mass Suggestion (6)
Otto's Irresistible Dance (6)
Antipathy/Sympathy (8)
Dominate Monster (8)
Feeblemind (8)
Power Word Stun (8)
Power Word Kill (9)

Dancing Lights (0)
Eldritch Blast (0)
Fire Bolt (0)
Light (0)
Ray of Frost (0)
Sacred Flame (0)
Shocking Grasp (0)
Burning Hands (1)
Chromatic Orb (1)
Cure Wounds (1)
Dissonant Whispers (1)
Divine Favor (1)
Faerie Fire (1)
Guiding Bolt (1)
Healing Word (1)
Hellish Rebuke (1)
Magic Missile (1)
Searing Smite (1)
Thunderous Smite (1)
Thunderwave (1)
Witch Bolt (1)
Wrathful Smite (1)
Branding Smite (2)
Continual Flame (2)
Darkness (2)
Flame Blade (2)
Gust of Wind (2)
Melf's Acid Arrow (2)
Moonbeam (2)
Prayer of Healing (2)
Scorching Ray (2)
Shatter (2)
Spiritual Weapon (2)
Aura of Vitality (3)
Blinding Smite (3)
Crusader's Mantle (3)
Daylight (3)
Fireball (3)
Leomund's Tiny Hut (3)
Lightning Bolt (3)
Mass Healing Word (3)
Sending (3)
Wind Wall (3)
Fire Shield (4)
Ice Storm (4)
Otiluke's Resilient Sphere (4)
Staggering Smite (4)
Wall of Fire (4)
Bigby's Hand (5)
Cone of Cold (5)
Destructive Smite/Wave? (5)
Destructive Wave (5)
Flame Strike (5)
Hallow (5)
Wall of Force (5)
Wall of Stone (5)
Blade Barrier (6)
Chain Lightning (6)
Contingency (6)
Heal (6)
Otiluke's Freezing Sphere (6)
Sunbeam (6)
Wall of Ice (6)
Delayed Blast Fireball (7)
Divine Word (7)
Fire Storm (7)
Forcecage (7)
Mordenkainen's Sword (7)
Prismatic Spray (7)
Earthquake (8)
Sunburst (8)
Telepathy (8)
Meteor Swarm (9)
Power Word Heal (9)

Minor Illusion (0)
Color Spray (1)
Disguise Self (1)
Illusory Script (1)
Silent Image (1)
Blur (2)
Invisibility (2)
Magic Mouth (2)
Mirror Image (2)
Nystul's Magic Aura (2)
Phantasmal Force (2)
Silence (2)
Fear (3)
Hypnotic Pattern (3)
Major Image (3)
Phantom Steed (3)
Greater Invisibility (4)
Hallucinatory Terrain (4)
Phantasmal Killer (4)
Creation (5)
Dream (5)
Mislead (5)
Seeming (5)
Programmed Illusion (6)
Mirage Arcane (7)
Mirrage Arcane (7)
Project Image (7)
Simulacrum (7)
Weird (9)

Chill Touch (0)
Spare the Dying (0)
False Life (1)
Inflict Wounds (1)
Ray of Sickness (1)
Blindness/Deafness (2)
Gentle Repose (2)
Ray of Enfeeblement (2)
Animate Dead (3)
Bestow Curse (3)
Feign Death (3)
Speak with Dead (3)
Vampiric Touch (3)
Blight (4)
Contagion (5)
Raise Dead (5)
Circle of Death (6)
Create Undead (6)
Eyebite (6)
Harm (6)
Magic Jar (6)
Finger of Death (7)
Resurrection (7)
Clone (8)
Astral Projection (9)
True Resurrection (9)

Druidcraft (0)
Mending (0)
Message (0)
Prestidigitation (0)
Shillelagh (0)
Thaumaturgy (0)
Thorn Whip (0)
Expeditious Retreat (1)
Feather Fall (1)
Goodberry (1)
Jump (1)
Longstrider (1)
Purify Food and Drink (1)
Alter Self (2)
Barkskin (2)
Cordon of Arrows (2)
Darkvision (2)
Enhance Ability (2)
Enlarge/Reduce (2)
Heat Metal (2)
Knock (2)
Levitate (2)
Magic Weapon (2)
Rope Trick (2)
Spider Climb (2)
Spike Growth (2)
Blink (3)
Elemental Weapon (3)
Fly (3)
Gaseous Form (3)
Haste (3)
Lightning Arrow (3)
Meld into Stone (3)
Plant Growth (3)
Slow (3)
Speak with Plants (3)
Water Breathing (3)
Water Walk (3)
Control Water (4)
Fabricate (4)
Giant Insect (4)
Polymorph (4)
Stone Shape (4)
Stoneskin (4)
Animate Objects (5)
Awaken (5)
Passwall (5)
Reincarnate (5)
Swift Quiver (5)
Telekinesis (5)
Disintegrate (6)
Flesh to Stone (6)
Move Earth (6)
Wind Walk (6)
Etheralness (7)
Etherealness (7)
Regenerate (7)
Reverse Gravity (7)
Sequester (7)
Animal Shapes (8)
Control Weather (8)
Glibness (8)
Shapechange (9)
Time Stop (9)
True Polymorph (9)

Just looking at the number of spells in each list, we see that divination looks a bit sub-par (which was expected), abjuration looks surprisingly ok, and illusion and necromancy look surprisingly sparse. Necromancy, on the other hand, has access to raise dead et al, which is a very powerful boon.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Ix: 3d6 Foods

I did a little experiment today on my way to work: trying to write some game content on my phone during the 15 minutes which I spend on public transport. Here are the results:

Some Typical Foods of the Markets, Bazaars, and Tavernas of the Desert Cities

Poor Foods
  1. Crispy fried cobra skin
  2. Wheat grits with ground roach
  3. Flatbread with garlic
  4. Steaming fly-maggot broth
  5. Broiled lizard feet
  6. Fried Gajji sac with salt

Common Foods
  1. Chickpeas with goat bones
  2. Axolotl brain gruel
  3. Gajji steaks in olive oil
  4. Cinnamon fried asp
  5. Stag beetle stuffed with aubergine
  6. Fried rice with snake egg

Luxury Foods
  1. Live newt-spawn with mustard greens
  2. Roast leg of goat
  3. Mantis-meat kebab
  4. Vat-eel fillet
  5. Whole axolotl in apricot and mint marinade
  6. Steamed ixilot egg (fertilised)

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

D&D 5: Less Random Ability Checks

Following my post the other week about adapting D&D 5 to use a roll-under ability check system, I've been having some further thoughts on the subject.

To recap, my basic gripe with the d20 ability check / skill system built into D&D 5 is as follows:
It introduces a very large random factor into things which, to me, don't seem that random. I'm totally cool with there being a large random element in combat (d20 + modifier vs AC) and with saving throws (d20 + modifier vs DC), but for skills it seems that the random element (d20) is way too significant. For example, the difference between the strongest person in the world (STR 20, +5 modifier) and an average person (STR 11, 0 modifier) is equivalent to only 25% of the random factor.
Having considered this some more, I'm now not 100% convinced with the roll-under solution I proposed previously. I like roll-under checks a lot, especially due to the target number being written directly on the character sheet, but there are some corner cases which got me concerned about the robustness of such a system. It seems, for example, to fall apart a bit for creatures with > 20 in an ability score.

Looking at the range of numbers involved, it seems that ability check modifiers for PCs go roughly from -4 to +10 (including proficiency bonus). This means that a world-level master (+10)  is 50% (of the d20 range) better than someone completely average (+0). So, how about changing the d20 into something with less of a random range? d6, say. Now a world-level master is 166% better than the average person. That sounds a little bit more reasonable to me.

How would this work with the normal DCs? Assuming about a +10 bonus at the high end of the scale, this means that adding a d6 on top of that gives us a potential very high roll of 16. The standard DCs go up to 30 (described as "nearly impossible"), so some adjusting will need to be made. A simple halving seems appropriate, resulting in the following DCs (rounding fractions down):
  • Very easy: 2
  • Easy: 5
  • Medium: 7
  • Hard: 10
  • Very hard: 12
  • Nearly impossible: 15
This seems about right to me.

Another aspect to consider is the range of checks which very accomplished characters can now automatically succeed at. With a d20 and the standard DCs, a character with a +10 bonus could automatically perform any "easy" task, but would have to roll for others. Using a d6 instead, this very accomplished character can automatically perform any "hard" task. This also seems about right to me, considering the rarity of a +10 bonus.

Addendum: I just realised that some characters (rogues, in particular) have features which allow them to double their proficiency bonus. This would probably have to be replaced with a +1 bonus, in a d6 ability check system.

D&D 5: How I Would Use It

After reading through much of the first section, some very quick initial thoughts on this newfangled D&D game:

  • The basic cleric, fighter, thief, and wizard classes are nice. I could even imagine allowing the arcane trickster and eldritch knight, for players who wanted a multi-class type option. The 4e-style battle master is right out, though.
  • The cleric domains and wizard school specializations are cool. I like the thematic non-spell benefits each grants.
  • Backgrounds are awesome.
  • I love the equipment chapter and the section on downtime activities -- streamlined, flavourful, and inspiring.
  • I'm very happy that weird races, multi-classing, and feats are explicitly called out as optional.
  • The simplicity and flexibility of the ability check / skill / proficiency system.
Actually there really isn't much of a definitive "no" for me in the new PHB. There are things I won't personally use (see below) but those are mostly modular and easy to drop, without getting into a mess of house rules.
  • The non-core-4 classes. They all introduce add more complicated mechanics and, especially with the addition of backgrounds, I just don't find any of them necessary. Ranger? = Outlander Fighter. Paladin? = Acolyte Fighter or just a Cleric. Bard = Entertainer Rogue (Arcane Trickster). Druid? = Cleric with the Nature domain. And so on. Feels like a lot of duplication to me. They also all bring world assumptions which I don't necessarily want in my game. (I could, however, imagine running a campaign with just a small, hand-picked list of these classes: Ranger, Druid, Warlock, Monk, for example, might be interesting.)
  • The silly 4e races. Well... I'm totally bored of the standard fantasy races too, although I do like the sub-races and the way they're described. My favourite is the gnome actually.
  • I was open to liking the new feats but still find them too much of a door into fiddly mechanical character optimisation.
  • As I discussed previously, I'm not keen on some aspects of the skill system. This is an area which seems not so simple to house rule in a way which doesn't risk messing with loads of other stuff. We'll see.
What I Would Do With It
I'm sure I'll run some games of D&D 5 to get a feeling for it. There's a lot of good stuff in it which I, on first reading, prefer to my traditional go-to, Labyrinth Lord. I'm open to the idea of this becoming my standard base of rules to build from, and it feels like a very solid foundation, at that.

I could imagine two approaches. Firstly, a silly, Mos Eisley, free-for-all. Dragonborn monks meet dwarf necromancers and half-elf warlocks for a party. Not my usual style but I could see it working for a throw-away game. (There's no way I'm going to try to come up with a consistent world setting which encompasses all the race/class combo possibilities in the new PHB!)

For a game more to my usual tastes, I would most likely cut out or reskin all the fantasy races and strip down the classes to the core 4 (or, more likely, core 3 -- no cleric).

I've been having a few ideas for tweaking the wizard class:
  • Bring back strict spell memorization. I'm not totally sure how I feel about the new flexi-spellcasting. Luckily, the spells per day chart is presented in a way that makes it trivial to interpret it as "spells memorized". (I guess this was intentional and will be mentioned as an option in the DMG.)
  • Make school specialization stricter. I've always loved the idea of pure specialists, e.g. a necromancer who can only cast necromantic spells. I'm not sure if the current 5e spell list is meaty enough to make this feasible, but I'm going to check that out. The additional bonuses granted by the specializations somewhat make up for a lack of spells. I'd also consider limiting specialists to one major school and a couple of minor schools, something like that.
  • Make school specialization optional. I've thought about the idea of bringing back the "mage" wizard -- a non-specialist. Given my ideas for stricter specialization, the mage would lose the special abilities granted by a school but would have a broader range of spells to choose from.
  • If I ran a game without clerics (as I usually do), I'd look into rolling all of the spells into one über-list. Perhaps non-wizard spells would only be available to school specialists, giving them an extra boon. (I was, by the way, interested to notice that the healing spells are almost all evocations.)
  • I'm mulling over the possibility of allowing wizards to make pacts as per the warlock class. There'd have to be some downside to doing so but the basic mechanics seem like they'd work out.
I'll post further ideas and house rules as they come.

(ps. I'm on holiday for the next 2 weeks, so likely won't have much time for writing. Really hoping I'll have some more free time at the end of September. I've been so busy lately that all of my writing projects have really fallen behind!)