Thursday, April 30, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron

My wife and I took the day to see a double-feature at a local theater that played the first Avengers movie followed by Avengers: Age of Ultron. The grand parents were nice enough to take our son for a day or two, as he is a bit too young for a nearly three hour long movie full of explosions.

Short review: great Avengers movie. Possibly better than the first, and that's with getting to watch the first right before for comparison. More going on in this one, of course, and it does much to shake up the direction of the Avengers films (and Marvel Cineverse) by the film's end. Ultron was a great villain...Wakanda was heroes rose up, old ones retired....somebody dies....a really great ride all the way to the end.

One thing that was interesting about this movie: no single character dominated the screen, although when the vision finally arrives he has a presence that stands out. Ultron was fantastic, albeit less menacing in some ways than the comics have portrayed him in recent years, if you can imagine that. Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver had very interesting introductions and reasonably well-paced journeys from villains to heroes that felt right for the essence of each character without adhering to the specificity of their comic tales. Just keep in mind that in some ways Ultron in this movie fills in for the role Magneto played in their comic book mutant lives.

Anyway....A+++ movie once again from Marvel. Now I have to wonder: will Ant-Man finally be where we see the franchise stumble a bit? Something tells me not, the trailers look quite entertaining.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Super Quick and Dirty Pathfinder Monster Conversion Method for Dungeons & Dragons 5E

At first converting 3.5 and Pathfinder monsters was looking like an elaborate dance falling somewhere between holistic shamanism and mathematics. I gradually realized I was over-analyzing the way to do conversions.... it finally dawned on me  that this was a much simpler process than I was thinking it would be. Here’s the way to make accurate  5E stat blocks out of Pathfinder and 3.5 edition monsters in a series or crazy-easy steps:

First: Attributes

Write these down first, because they figure all the good stuff out in a moment. Once you have the attributes, you have the first half of your monster’s building blocks. When converting remember that in 3.5/PF undead and constructs don’t have CON scores, so substitute CHA in Pathfinder for undead charisma; otherwise make these scores 10.

Second, remember that 5E goes from 1 to 30 for monsters, so any monster in 3.5/PF with higher than a 30 gets rounded down to 30. You could probably shave a few points off of Pathfinder and 3.5 stats which are a tiny bit inflated, but we’re not going to sweat the small stuff here.

Second: Hit Points and Armor Class

Write down the hit points. Actual damage expressions in 5E can be higher, sometimes much more so, but for conversion purposes we just need the average hit points to figure CR. Take the hit points and compare to the chart on page 274 of the 5e DMG. From this, write down the proficiency modifier for the monster by CR in 5E.

For Armor Class, start with 10 and then look at what the 3.5/PF version has. If it’s wearing armor, calculate from the 5E armor equivalent (applying any accepted Dex modifiers if allowed). If it has natural armor, take the natural armor, divide by 2 and then cap at a maximum bonus of 10 (or 12 if the creature should be treated as a legendary or high-level encounter). Apply dexterity only to natural armor of 4 or less.

Ignore size modifiers to AC. Ignore magical bonuses but if it has some sort of permanent magic armor, use the same rule as above. If it has multiple sources of armor, add them all together first and then divide by 2 and cap at 10 (or 12).

If your final armor calculation is higher than 23, consider capping it at 23.

Alternative Fast and Dirty AC: take the 3.5/PF AC, divide by 3, then add to 10. Round down always.

Third: all the modifiers

This is a piece of cake. Quickly figure the attack bonuses as follows: proficiency plus strength for melee, proficiency plus dexterity for ranger and finesse, proficiency plus relevant magic attribute modifier (default to INT if none are obvious) for spell attack bonus. BAM, solved a big headache in conversion here.

Then note that the damage modifier will be based on the strength, dexterity and possible the magic attribute modifiers for all attacks.

Fourth: write down the defenses

Defenses are very easy: if it’s got a DR expression in 3.5/PF then it is now resistance in 5E. If it has an exception listed after the DR (i.e. DR 15/bludgeoning) then note the exception to resistance (i.e. DR 15/bludgeoning would be Resistance: all physical (piercing and slashing) attacks except bludgeoning). In 5E most resistance can be overcome by magic or a special effect such as silver.

If the creature has any spell resistance then give it the standard 5E Magic Resistance (advantage on saves vs. magic and spell effects).

If the creature is weak/vulnerable to an effect then it is vulnerable in 5E.

If the creature is immune to an effect then it is immune in 5E.

Radiant is holy and necrotic is negative energy/unholy.

Any turn or channel resistance becomes advantage on save vs. turn undead in 5E.

Fifth: write down the attacks

First, give the creature multi-attack with # of attacks per round. Then write down the melee and ranged, apply the appropriate attack bonuses determined in step three above, and note the reach and # of targets. Then write down just the damage dice, but bump all dice up one step (i.e. 1D6 becomes 1D8 or 2D8 becomes 2D10, etc.) for natural and magical attacks; convert to the closest normal weapon type if a weapon.

Then apply the correct damage modifier figured in step three above for each attack.

For add-ons such as being grabbed or grappled, note that it happens and figure the save DC (always relevant ability modifier plus proficiency).  Additional damage effects (such as rending) usually translate as-written (e.g. two claws need to hit for the effect to pop).

Weird effects usually translate directly, but if anything applies a condition or modifier, convert to the closest 5E condition (poisoned is always a good bet) or make it apply advantage/disadvantage accordingly.

Sixth: Write down any spells

For super quick and dirty just write them down and drop any that aren’t in 5E (or replace with closest analog, or just whatever floats your boat).

For slower quick and dirty check each spell and replace any that aren’t in 5E with a good equivalent, or look into the DMG’s appendix for spell conversion ideas.

You’ll find this isn’t as tough as it sounds….most spells have 5E analogs. Make sure to replace all DCs with the spell save DC determined in step 3.

Seventh: convert monster special abilities

Most monster special abilities are self-evident as to intent, and if you use them as-is, but substitute the 5E spell save DC and bump damage dice up one code, and replace modifiers with advantage/disadvantage, you’ll get the effect right most of the time. Some require a bit of holistic interpretation, and some may need you to scope out the monster abilities list for appropriate 5E analogs in the DMG, pages 280-281.

Eighth: Skills, Size, Languages, Movement, Size, Alignment and Senses

Movement in 3.5/PF translates directly into 5E. Senses translate more or less  (there are only 4 of them in 5E), and just treat low-light vision as darkvision in 5E. Figure perception as wisdom modifier plus proficiency.

For skills most monsters don’t need them. If there’s a skill that defines the monster, add it using proficiency+stat. That “one proficiency to rule them all” really does make 5E conversion easy.

For languages just write them down and substitute something else for any language not in your world or D&D 5E (e.g. I’d make Aklo either infernal, celestial or primordial….or just use it as-is because it’s cool).

Anything smaller than tiny becomes tiny in 5E. Anything bigger than huge becomes gargantuan.

Alignment translates directly, noting that animals usually get "unaligned" now.

Ninth: Challenge Rating

If you have time, use the rules on pages 274-275 of the DMG to figure the CR as the average of the offensive and defensive CR. Now you know what level of 5E adventurer is going to find this a worthy challenge, a blood fest, or a cake-walk!

Finally: Stuff that doesn't translate well or we ignore

Remember, anytime you see a modifier greater than +2/-2 it should probably be advantage/disadvantage in 5E.

Just ignore all 3.5/PF feats. Trying to do conversions is a quick spiral into madness.

Five foot steps are an artifact of prior editions and have no place in 5E unless you houserule them in.

Save or die effects should be turned into their appropriate 5E equivalents (petrifying gaze of the medusa or any creature that deals energy drain damage in 5E should have the prior edition conversion work equivalently).

Hit Dice Calculation

You can figure this out by determining creature hit die by size, factor in CON mod, determine the average HP per hit die and divide the HPs of the creature by that amount. If the expression isn't exact (especially if it's a Pathfinder monster with class hit dice, such as the samsaran example below) you can fudge it a bit or adjust the hit point average to reflect the correct hit dice. I'd err on the side of caution and round up when in doubt.

And now, some conversion examples! It is easier to do a conversion block of a Pathfinder or 3.5 monster than it is to write a new 3.5/PF monster from scratch. Go figure.

Samsarans (CR 1/8; 25 XP)(Bestiary 4 page 230)
 Mystical reincarnates who remember lives of past ages and are death-defiant.
TN medium humanoids
HP 13; HD 3D8; AC 13; Proficiency +2
Str 8, Dex 14, Con 11, Int 12, Wis 14, Cha 15 (Saves are Int +3 and Wis +4)
Movement 30 feet
Senses: dark vision, perception +4 (passive 14)
Melee spear +1 (5 ft one target) 1D6-1 piercing damage
Ranged Sling +4 (ranged one target) 1D4+2 damage
Spells: Attack +4 Save DC 12
1/day comprehend languages
4/day: command, cure wounds, sanctuary, magic missile
At Will: minor image, light, mage hand
Traits: Advantage on saving rolls against necrotic energy draining effects.

Karkinoi (CR 3; 700 XP)(Bestiary 4 page 173)
   Because giant crabs and ogres weren't cool until they got it on.
CE large monstrosity
HP 76, HD 9D10+27; AC 17, Proficiency +2
Str 22, Dex 10, Con 16, Int 6, Wis 10, Cha 7 (Special Saves: none)
Movement 30 feet, swim 40 feet; sideways scuttle
Senses: darkvision, Perception +2 (passive 12)
Melee Claw +8 (reach 10 feet, one target) 1D12+6 and target is grabbed (Save DC 16 to escape); deals 1D12+6 crushing damage to any target still grabbed each round.
Melee Slam +8 (reach 10 feet, one target) 1D8+6
Sideways Scuttle so long as the karkinoi move in a straight line sideways it can get an extra 5 feet of movement (totalling 35 feet that round).
Water Dependency a karinoi can survive outside of water for 16 (constitution) hours. After that, it starts drowning (suffocation rules 5E PHB pg. 182)

Tzitzimitl (Bestiary 3, page 276)
   Terrifying Aztec undead gods of vengeance from beyond the stars.
NE Gargantuan Undead
CR 21 (33,000 XP)
Hit Dice 451 (22D20+220)
Armor Class 20
Movement 50 feet; 60 feet flying
Senses Dark Vison, True Seeing (always on), Detect Magic (always on); Perception +12 (passive 22)
Special Saves advantage against turn undead
Ability Scores STR 30 (+10), DEX 21 (+5), CON 30 (+10), INT 20 (+5), WIS 23 (+6), CHA 30 (+10)
Immune: cold, electricity, mind-affecting spells, poison, does not breath, necrotic
Resistance: fire, piercing and slashing weapons that are non-magical
Vulnerable: bludgeoning weapons and damage dealt by a good creature
Magic Resistance: advantage on all spell saves
Multiattack: may attack 1 bite and 2 claws per round or one eye beam attack.
Melee bite +17 attack (20 foot reach, 1 target) deals 2D10+14 piercing damage plus 3D8 electricity and energy drain (DC 25 save vs. CON or hit points are reduced by that amount until long rest)
Melee Claw +17 attack (20 foot reach, 1 target) 2D8+14 slashing and 3D8 electricity
Ranged Eye Beam +12 attack (100 foot range, 1 target) 10D8 elecricity and 10D8 force damage
Traits and Magic
Spell Save DC 19 (INT based); Spell Attack +12
Tzitzimitl Natural Magic: arcane sight (detect magic), fly, and true seeing are always on effects.
At Will: bestow curse, darkness (changed from deeper darkness)
3/day: animate dead, contagion, teleport (no greater in 5E), haste
1/day: create undead, time stop and power word kill
Eclipse: anyone in a darkness effect cast by the tzitzimitl must make a DC 19 save vs. CON or take 8D8 cold damage (save for half) and is at disadvantage each round while in the area of effect. The affected target can re-roll the save each round to remove the disadvantage once out of the area of effect.
Light to Dark: 3/day the tzitzimitl, on taking any radiant damage, can spend a reaction to change the damage type to necrotic and reflects the damage type back on the source (and an equivalent number of targets by radius if the source spell or effect targets more than one foe). The save is based on the source's DC or attack modifier.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

WotC is pulling the trigger: Dungeons & Dragons 3.5E Player's Handbook now on dndclassics

They did it....those crazy bastards did it: not what we want just yet (any edition other than 3.5 or 4E) but the mere fact that the Player's Handbook for 3.5 D&D is now available on is a clear sign of a sea change. This could mean we'll get to see 1E, 2E, 4E and....dare we hope....? 5E soon.

To quote Neo: "Woah."

Cyberpunk 2020 - a retrospective

Every now and then I will be responding to a post over at and accidentally write what amounts to a good blog post. When this happens I like to drag it over here for posterity. Anyway, first check out the start of this thread at by Darren MacLennan and Eric Brenna here for a very thoughtful conversation about the nature and effect of emergent gameplay on an RPG's original intentions vs. what we actually use it for. Then I have my little discussion on Cyberpunk 2020 and my experience with the game in the early

I ran CP 2013 briefly and then migrated to CP 2020 which I played semi-regularly right up until around 1994ish, and the emergent play concept holds well. When I started running Cyberpunk I was aware that it held some BGC influence (Bubble Gum Crisis, an anime, for those who don't know), but at least in my neck of the woods it was all about Akira, appleseed, Black Magic M-66 and Potlabor eventually. Finding bootleg copies with a fan translation at cons of many of these was the pinnacle of success.....and then later finding your own VHS copy was even better. Meanwhile Neuromancer defined the genre but George Effinger, Williams, Spinrad and others were regarded as equally important. Hell, even CP 2020 had a sourcebooks for Hardwired and When Gravity Fails...actual sourcebooks for running games in these CP settings.

Anyway, my CP experiences were mostly from age 17-24ish after life made it harder to keep up and I moved on. The entire time I ran Cyberpunk 2020 though, it was a weird experience, and I remember some of the experiences as follows:

First, as referee I was always discontent that the game was effectively out of date for any sort of realistic CP projection of the future almost from day one. CP 2020 has the timeline it does because it was remaining faithful to CP 2013...which when it was written was still pre-Soviet collapse. Pondsmith decided that CP 2020 was basically a fictional alternate timeline, and I think he did so for the other reason it felt outdated: his projection of 2020 as the date of a sort of cyberpunk singularity for everyone to enjoy was predicated on an assumption of technological developments that all looked theoretically possible in 1988-1990 but no one had any idea how long or what form they might take. I think he wanted the game to be as humanly close to the present as possible while still giving it thirty years to affect cultural change as a result of the CP technology. So it had stuff that was already looking funny just 2-3 years after publication, and an alt-history that still had a Soviet Union. I forget now, but I think his later rulebook (Cybergeneration and then CP 2030, the Barbie Doll edition) still riffed off of the alt-history (but correct me if I'm wrong).

Second, I observed two things, and this lends well with the topic of this thread: first was that in reading the game I found Pondsmith's (and all the authors) writing was energetic and vivid in creating the setting and feel of their universe. As a young guy in college this game was amazing, an eye opener that you could run an RPG with such weird energy and pace and feel. I wasn't entirely sure where it would go, but I sure as hell wanted to be there when it arrived. I ran games regularly for my cohorts in our group, and had two separate campaigns with two groups going at one point. CP 2020 was also a major alternative to those who did not want to play AD&D anymore, or needed a much-deserved break. It was a sharp contrast to almost everything else on the market except perhaps the other Cyberpunk-themed RPGs popping out, and they all looked like pale imitations, if only because they couldn't figure out that extra special something that CP 2020 offered in its style, writing and presentation. Ice's Cyberpunk game felt very flat to everyone I knew, for example, while Shadowrun was regarded as that Cyberpunk game that people who HAD to play elves no matter what game it was would go and play.

So I took the game's setting and ditched the history, then stuck everything pretty much as presented in 2089 instead. Then I designed games that revolved around what I could discern from the book, and what I tended to create involved, at least at first, lots of corporate intrigue, betrayal, and the common solo or fixer trying to stick it to the man while making his way in life. What the game actually tended to turn into over a matter of sessions was a furious arms race as my players worked to secure the beast gear, the best cyberware they could find just short of their total loss of humanity, and most important of all the best armor. Every campaign ended with a group of mercs looking like a small army either blowing up an Arasaka scyscraper or being blown up.

The supplements didn't help this trend, either, with lots of heavy armor and eventually dragoons and other extremely tough vehicles. It was fun, but the very last Cyberpunk game I ran in the 90's was about a gang of dragoons (basically massive guyver-like cyborgs) who patrolled the inner and outer-rim colonies of a far-flung 2090's CP which had expanded into colonizing the solar system. Their last mission was investigating a crashed mystery vessel on Titan, and discovering it was full of what were basically Warhammer 40K gene stealers. The End.

Throughout all of my CP 2020 gaming days I learned the following from my players: the game was deadly, but it offered lots of tools for overcoming that and [I]becoming very deadly[/I] instead. Players loved this, and it was something everyone could agree on. No one was playing a rocker or a journalist type looking to enact social change, but everyone was playing a solo, fixer or netrunner looking for the big score, that one hit against The Man in the form of CP's myriad corporate villains which could land them either retirement or enough firepower to stand up against a small army. It was a jet-fueled power fantasy for most of my players, and I was guilty of fostering this because I'd always give them what they wanted, with more big guns and more big bad guys to tangle with, in an ever-escalating arms race.

I think I'd run CP very differently today....been thinking about it, actually, although I'd keep it in my alt-version 2089 era and necessarily update any outmoded tech in the book. In fact, I really wish RTG had the means to do this themselves....just do CP 2020 but make it...I don't know...CP 2050 with a clean rewrite of the setting, still evoking what it is but with the sensibilities and technology of today, as well as the appreciation for just how troublesome an ASI based singularity looks around that time. We've got Eclipse Phase, sure....but it's just not as fun to read. other observation postscript to the above. Eric in his start of the thread references Streets of Fire, as 80's a movie as we'll ever get. I loved that movie back then though I find it hard to watch now, but I have to say, I never once associated Streets of Fire with Cyberpunk 2020 or anything close to it. SoF to a kid of the 80's was more like some sort of retropunk event, and it might overlap with Cyberpunk on the "-punk" part of the venn diagram but that was it. That said, in reading it now and looking back on my formative decade there, I have to say I probably agree with his use of Streets of Fire to reflect some of the feel of what Pondsmith was going for.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Finally saw Man of Steel

I'm trying hard to blame myself, and only myself, for not seeing this movie sooner. The most recent Superman movie was one I actually avoided because I --mistakenly-- placed my trust in the opinions of certain people and reviewers, and trusted that they were representative of honest feelings about whether this was a good movie or not. I was badly mistaken.....

For me at least, this is the best Superman movie yet, and the first to bring me back to the sort of awe I felt when the 1978 Superman came on the scene....but of course with a story, acting and FX that have matured dramatically in the decades between. I'm honestly hopeful for the forthcoming Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice now. If it can be as good or better than this.....? Yeah, I'll be there.

There were a few oddities in this movie (and Superman taking out Zod was not one of them...I was impressed that Snyder's film took Superman into such a one chickened out here for the sake of the Comics Code, if you will). For one, while I was almost gleeful to see him appear in the end in his guise as Clark Kent, Daily Planet reporter.....I was a bit perplexed as to just how old Kal El might manage to keep his identity completely secret....I mean, didn't a fair chunk of the initial fight with the Kryponians pretty much nuke Smalltown? Wouldn't there be lots of secondary evidence that the fight started on his mom's ranch? Probably not, I guess....but still....Lois clearly knew him at the end there, right? It seemed ever so slightly ambiguous to me for some reason.

Now, given that Superman and Wonder Woman are having a relationship in the New 52 universe, I wonder if they'll continue with that reality and continuity warping schism for the next movies....

D&D 5E: Pixies as Player Characters

This came fact it will be addressed/dealt with Saturday night, but some of my players plan to torture me with pixie PCs in the level 11 game! I devised the following stats and wanted to share them....anyway, what follows is a sort of hybrid methodology of adopting a monster stat block to suit a PC's needs...can't say it's balanced, but one could argue that any player who wants to play a pixie is by definition a little unbalanced....Ba DOOM!

So, how to make a Pixie adventurer:

Ability Scores: Go to the pixie page in the Monster Manual. You start with this as the base pixie, at level 0. You start with the following stat modifiers that are applied after you point-buy or roll: -8 STR, +10 DEX, -2 CON, +0 INT, +4 WIS and +5 CHA. Any stat that ends up at 0 or less becomes 1 and any stat that is greater than 20 caps at 20. Or just use the stats in the MM as-is.

Remember that your encumbrance as a tiny creature is 1/2 of a medium or small creature.

Movement: Speed on foot is 10 feet and flight speed is 30 feet

Magic: Your special abilities as a pixie are Magic Resistance and Innate Spellcasting (druidcraft), casting each of the following 1/day: confusion, dancing lights, detect evil and good, detect thoughts, dispel magic, entangle, fly, phantasmal force, polymorph, sleep; CHA is your spell ability.

Alternative Staggered Magic: instead of getting them all at once spells are awarded as you level. Pick four spells from the list above at level 1, and an additional spell at level 2, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11.

Superior Invisibility: pixies can turn invisible until its concentration ends (as if concentrating on a spell). Any equipment the pixe wears or carries is invisible with it. This is at-will.

Damage Expression: pixies can deal 1 point of damage to other tiny creatures with tiny weapons. Pixies cannot deal physical damage (slashing/bludgeoning/piercing) to small, medium or larger creatures, period, unless the tiny weapon is enchanted for a damage bonus. So in other words a Tiny Frost Brand sword +1 for a pixie can do a base zero damage +1 magical plus special damage effect.

Languages: sylvan and one other (usually common).

Tiny Equipment: pixies can find equipment with 1/4 the weight value in their size.

Pixie armor: pixies can wear something that looks like armor (and any armor they get has 1/4 the weight value of a normal equivalent suit, but costs twice as much because they either have to secure it from stingy faeries or human doll makers who work in miniature) but the armor has no AC value (all AC 10 plus Dex modifier) due to the fact that it's tiny armor and can barely stop a bee sting let alone a sword. As such, all pixie armor only gets a protection bonus based on any magic enchantments.

Addendum: the Saturday night game had one pixie warlock in it (fay pact if you couldn't guess...) and she was terrifying. Insisible strafe-bombing an erinyes with eldritch blast for the win. The player who is running the pixies isn't terribly experienced with gaming (having returned after an age's absence to the fold) so I am quite comfortable with her getting a chance to shine as a seriously over-powered tiny terror....but let me just say that I'd probably veto pixies as presented here (a replication of their MM entry) in the hands of even a moderately power-gaming focused player.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

D&D 5E Saturday Creature Factory: Baltorklani Ape Men

Previously appearing as a 13th age monster, I now offer the 5E version of this race of uplifted apemen...

Baltorklani (Uplifted Gorillas)
CR 1 (200 XP)
LN medium humanoid 
Initiative +2
AC 12 or 14 (hide armor)
HP 22 (4D8+4)
Speed 30 feet
Multiattack: baltorklani can make two fist strikes, two halberd strikes or two spear strikes.
Melee Attack – fist +5 attack (reach 5 ft, one target) 1D6+3 bludgeoning damage.
Melee Attack – halberd +5 attack (reach 10 feet, one target) 1D10+3 piercing damage.
Ranged Attack – spear +4 attack (range 20/60 one target) 1D6+2 piercing damage
STR 16 (+3), DEX 14 (+2), CON 13 (+1), INT 11 (0), WIS 14 (+2), CHA 9 (-1)
Languages: common, baltorklani
Senses: perception +4 (passive 14)
Skills: Animal Handling +4, Nature +4, Survival +4

Jungle Rage: baltorklani ape men can go into a burning rage, in which they gain +4 damage to their attacks but fight at -2 to attack for one minute.

Deep in the wilderness of the immense Amech Jungles are an ancient race of intelligent apes, beastmen who's origins are now lost to time, though some scholars of esoteric lore suggest that they were created as warriors and slaves for the ancient Kadantanian Empire, a cruel regime of mad sorcerers which fell centuries ago to internal conflict.

The baltorklani are actually descended from several magically uplifted apes, including chimpanzees, baboons and gorillas. The gorillas deeply resent being compared to other lesser apemen, especially chimpanzees, which they despise as cunning and untrustworthy. They see the baboons as chattel and treat them as such, delegating the baboons to lesser slaves whenever they can.

In the Amech wilderness the three types of baltorklani tend to segment themselves whenever they can, at least in those cases where a powerful gorilla warrior doesn't rise up and subjugate the others to form his own small empire. These baltorklani gorilla leaders are very dangerous to the human populations in such regions, and the kingdom of Belladas remembers the war with the baltorklani warlord Jezovash less than a century ago was a costly battle.

In any given party of baltorklani you will likely encounter one or more that are accompanied by trained apes and baboons. A typical baltorklani patrol will include 3D6 soldiers, 1D3 commanders with 1D4 levels of fighter, a 50% chance of one shaman with 1D4 levels of druid or warlock, and usually 2D4 trained apes or baboons.

Baltorklani Ape Men as a Character Race: +2 Strength, +1 Dexterity; racial proficiency in Survival; gain one fist attack (1D6+Str bludgeoning damage) and the Jungle Rage effect; requires a short rest after use before being available for use again.

Baltorklani (Uplifted Chimpanzees)
CR 1 (200 XP)
LN medium humanoid 
Initiative +0
AC 15 (leather armor)
HP 18 (4D8)
Speed 30 feet, climb 30 ft
Multiattack: baltorklani Chimpanzees can make two fist strikes, two shortsword strikes or two spear strikes.
Melee Attack – fist +5 attack (reach 5 ft, one target) 1D4+2 bludgeoning damage.
Melee Attack – shortsword +5 attack (reach 5 feet, one target) 1D6+3 piercing damage and make a poison save DC 13 vs. Constitution or take 2D6 poison damage.
Ranged Attack – spear +5 attack (range 20/60 one target) 1D6+3 piercing damage
STR 14 (+2), DEX 16 (+3), CON 11 (0), INT 14 (+2), WIS 10 (0), CHA 12 (+1)
Languages: common, baltorklani
Senses: perception +2 (passive 12)
Skills: Acrobatics +5
Jungle Predators: baltorklani chimpanzees are extremely swift and quiet in the jungle, gaining advantage on stealth checks to ambush foes in the wilderness and moving through all but the most difficult natural terrain as if it were normal.

The uplifted chimpanzees of baltorklani society are the thieves and wizards with their cunning and intelligence. 

Baltorklani Chimpanzees as a Character Race: +1 Intelligence, +2 Dexterity; racial proficiency in Acrobatics; gain one fist attack (1D4+Dex bludgeoning damage; finess attack) and Jungle Predators (advantage on stealth checks in the wilderness to ambush foes and move through difficult terrain as if it were normal).

Baltorklani (Uplifted Baboons)
CR 1/8 (25 XP)
LN small humanoid 
Initiative +2
AC 12 
HP 14 (4D6)
Speed 30 feet, climb 30 ft
Melee Attack – bite +4 attack (reach 5 ft, one target) 1D4-1 piercing damage.
Melee Attack – spear +4 attack (reach 5 feet, one target) 1D6-1 piercing damage.
Ranged Attack – spear +4 attack (range 20/60 one target) 1D6+2 piercing damage
STR 8 (-1), DEX 14 (+2), CON 11 (0), INT 9 (-1), WIS 12 (+1), CHA 8 (-1)
Languages: common, baltorklani
Senses: perception +1 (passive 11)
Skills: Stealth +4, Survival +3
Rush Tactics: baltorklani baboons use pack tactics. They gain +1D6 damage to attack damage if an ally is adjacent to the target they attack.

The baboon men of the baltorklani tribes are numerous and underfoot to their larger chimpanzee and gorilla cousins. They are second-class citizens in the ruined cities occupied by the baltorklani tribes, and the gorillas regularly use them as chattel for mass attacks against enemies.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Time to kick it high-level in D&D 5E

My Saturday group has the principle host taking a sabbatical soon, during which we'll be without the usual haunt we've had for gaming on the weekend for many years now. To fix this I'm moving the group to the FLGS where my Wednesday group meets, although I may suffer the horror of hosting at my place of residence on those Saturdays otherwise dominated by Magic at the game shop...Magic player get pretty loud, didja know that?

Anyway, since we've got about 9 weeks with a host and player absent, I am proposing to my game group that I run a nine-session campaign in D&D 5E that starts at level 11 and assumes some pretty competent characters. In working out specifics I realized that starting a high level game in D&D 5E means a few interesting options not previously in the game (such as skill training) or framed in a different way in 5E (such as magic items and the lack of an economy for such).

The DMG includes some suggestions on what players can start with in terms of gold and magic (with variants for low and high magic settings), but beyond that there are other interesting things to consider, such as:

Other interesting things high level character can spend moolah on:

1.  Skills, languages and tool proficiency. In 5E while you start with all of these as part of your class, and can get more if you want with a feat, the downtime rules in the DMG indicate that you can seek out training between adventures, and it effectively costs 250 GP and 6 months to gain proficiency in a new skill. There is no level-dependent cap on how many skills and tool proficiencies you can have, nor an intelligence maximum on how many languages you can know, so this suggests that wealthy high-level PCs with lots of cash and downtime should in theory have a lot of trained skills.

2. Housing. At this level PCs start with enough gold to possibly own a guildhouse or other structure. Pooling money could let them buy a stronghold or even a ship. Interestingly at level 11 I'd say adventurers in 5E are --in terms of wealth-- closer to 5th-8th level 3rd edition/PF characters (I'll have to muster up the energy to analyze that).

3. Magic Items. Outside of any free magic picks the book suggests, as you may know D&D 5E does not default to assume a magic item economy, although it does provide rules on how to set one up that enforces the notion that magic items do not have fixed values, and barter, trade, coercion and services/quests will be a big factor in the acquisition of such. For my campaign, and brevity, I'm letting my players use their starting gold to buy common magic items for 100 GP and uncommon magic items for 500 GP, but they only start with one rare magic item.

4. Spells. Wizards can research spells at a cost of 50 GP and 2 hours per level, and other classes not saddled with spell books can spend money on spell scrolls to stock up on those spells that don't fit so easily in your allotted memorized spell lists.

5. Hirelings. The hireling costs are in the PHB, but let's face 11th level every self-respecting adventurer has got to have a couple porters, a torchbearer and maybe an apprentice or squire following him or her around, right?

Anyway, I am giving my group the option to stick with the current level 7 characters and continue their ongoing travails, but if they want to keep that campaign on hold until our missing player/host returns from sabbatical, I am suggesting that the high-level option I propose would be a great way to explore 5E in a new direction. Back in the day starting a game at level 10 or higher in 3rd edition or Pathfinder was more of a novelty, a filler for single sessions, because usually by level 14-15 the game got so crazy and swingy that it was too much to deal with, and thus did the campaigns tend to close around those levels. Something tells me that high level play in 5E isn't going to be quite so problematic, but I am really interested to see.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Dyson's Delves II is the deal of the day at rpgnow

If you've ever trawled google looking for dungeon maps you could retool for your own use at the table, chances are good you've found some especially nice hand-drawn maps that seem to come from one man: Dyson Logos, and his Delves. Rpnow has Dyson's Delves II as a deal of the day today only so go snag it for $4 to see how great his maps are, and also to get a very nice set of useful dungeons; it's got 11 keyed/described dungeons and 21 unkeyed maps, and at $4 fpr 150 pages of very useful content this is a real steal. Especially useful for your sandbox/hexcrawl games when the players wander into terra incognita!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Long Day - Rifts, Hasbro and DC's Convergence among other musings

Today is going to be a long day: 24 hours without sleep now. Long story, too much "other" for this blog but I am looking forward to crashing later for a few hours before game begins. Ai!!!! So a random medley post doay:

The Savage Worlds edition of Rifts I mentioned really is a shocker. I still can't believe that Palladium consented to allow this. It won't quite feel the same though without a long monologue in each book from Kevin explaining that the original manuscript was amazing but he still had to rewrite it entirely to suit his vision of Book X.

Hasbro on D&D
Hasbro's news that D& D "on a real tear" was cool but I am still amused that it was also grouped with Clue, Candy Land and other games in the Hasbro inventory in terms of where it stands in the corporate report. This led me to wonder if maybe somewhere deep in Hasbro's corporate network is a division of 7 dedicated developers working furiously to make Candy Land new and innovative, all glaring over at the WotC team for setting the bar to a new high.

DC's Convergence
Anyone following DC's Convergence mini-epic running this month and next? No? I'm guessing a lot of older fans habitually dodge all newer iterations of an old product without compelling evidence to do otherwise, but I happen to be a fan of the New 52 DC universe and also still a fan of (most of) the pre-New-52 universe (I followed the post-Crisis DC from around 86 through to 2000 before I finally burned out). The Convergence event, which I am told is actually a cover for DC to move its headquarters to California and not worry about having their comic lineup interrupted, is a storyline about entire cities of various realms of the DC multiverse which have been kidnapped to a distant universe where Braniac is collecting "dead cities." This has been an recurring theme for several storylines now in DC's New 52, and pretty much most of the recent weeklies (New 52 Future's End and Earth2: Future's End) have been building up to it. Anyway, this frame gives the DC authors an excuse to revisit dozens of older DC universes and cancelled books. So far it's been a real menagerie, but an unusual number of their entries date to sometime in the mid 00's prior to the major universe-revisionism that went on or back to the late 80's, when I really got into DC. It's a fun trip down memory lane but in a modern context; the interesting thing is going to be seeing what changes, if any, this new approach has on other DC books going forward.

Marvel's doing something similar with its Secret Wars, which appears to be a muddy mess of various miniseries revisiting key moments in Marvel's history while using the end-of-the-universe event they've been building up to in the Avengers titles for years now as a frame. The end result, I predict, will look alarmingly close to the Marvel Cineverse, but I could be mistaken....still, I'm going to dodge most of the Secret Wars titles as it looks like a ridiculous mess and honestly I haven't been "back" to Marvel since the early 80's, so for most of these spin-off titles they are referencing events that took place during the decades that I was almost exclusively in to either DC, Image, or Jodorowksi comics.

Plus, there are a lot of comics for these two events coming out from Marvel and DC both. For the sake of my budget a decision had to be made: and I decided it was more fun to follow the Convergence.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Rifts is getting Savaged

Rifts is getting a Savage Worlds edition. Yes, you heard that right....the scoop is right here on Cross Planes, a shockingly good gaming/news blog I just discovered. One with lots of 5E stuff, too.

I don't know whether or not this is one of the harbingers of the end of the world or not, but I do know that it's the first time in a long time I've been excited about a product to come out of Palladium. Probably because Pinnacle and all that...

Oh, and yes I did double check to make sure it wasn't an old April Fool's post.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Some days.....and now for a Roadside Encounter Table

I don't delete posts often but this time I'll make an exception, but purely because I am at work and just noticed on break that the video I linked to is somehow not the same one I thought it was....I actually have no idea what that video is about....will have to look at it tonight and see. Important lesson: do not try to post a fill blog while sleep meds are taking over! The video I had intended to link to must have been one up or down on Vimeo and thanks to groginess I didn't notice I'd grabbed the wrong one. Yeeeaaaah.

Instead, I'm offering up this random encounter chart I recently put together for my Saturday night game --any players please don't read this =)

So....Twenty Random Road Encounters in the Province of Aeor:

Road Encounters in Aeor (EL 6-8)
Once per two hours: 17+ on D20 an encounter occurs
D20                        Result
1                              A party of pilgrims seeking out Qaliad; will tell the PCs all about it
2                              A lone knight named Ralavaston who is a bit off acting and is either mentally unstable or possibly a deserter from the war
3                              A horse with saddle that appears to have lost its rider. A saddlebag contains a potion and a sealed scroll with instructions it be delivered to Esgrata at the Inn of the Seven Sisters. It’s a love potion (potion of charming); the scroll is a poem from Lord Saladan of Hyrkan’ien
4                              A weary band of adventurers who recently survived a brutal fight 
                        with river pirates
5                              A lone Halfling trader named Sminden who specializes in prayer 
6                              A suspicious party of seven men in red cloaks on black horses. The leader is a half-elf named Dalesh Tryvaros and says they have private business in Aeornin.  They are actually Fire Knives on their way to assassinate a merchant lord named Gosteros who owes their order money for a hit he failed to pay up on in Krythia (use assassin stats if a fight breaks out)
7                              A caravan of gnomish traders from Rogrondae looking to go to (1-3) Eornin or (4-6) the Capitol; they may offer 20 GP to the PCs for protection to travel together to Asteros or Aeornin
8                              four scholar-priests of Nistur are journeying to Aeornin to study at the Librarium of the city temple and welcome any gossip or news
9                              A half-orc ranger named Augustos with his pet Baboon Brutus will avoid the party if possible; he is a ranger of the order of Kom’Huandyr, and is leaving southern Hyrkania due to the backlash his kind has experienced following the war
10                           Six road wardens (rangers level 6) in the service of the king will stop the PCs to check them out and ask them their business, especially if they look suspicious
11                           an eladrin warlock named Serros is traveling with four trained blink dogs. He is looking for elven ruins, as be believes they may have been remnants of an ancient eladrin city that was teleported to the material plane. He’ll pay 50 GP for directions to ruins the PCs can tell him about
12                           A silver elf sorcerer named Regulus travels with a tiefling rogue named Telura; they recently eloped and are fleeing their angry families in the Capitol to settle in the swamplands, but have no real plans beyond that
13                           A large force of mercenaries of the Order of the Blade, totaling 100 men, led by Captain Dro Sevaris are making their way to Aeornin to pledge their blades to the duke, as they heard the rumor of a vast sum of money as a reward to solve the city’s problems
14                           Dazhak Tagal, a dragonborn mercenary warrior (level 6) is traveling with five hired hands who are all rough looking rogues. He seeks out evidence that the dragonborn have a presence in the region
15                           a large group of fanatical cultists are making their way to Gravenor to join the druid circle. The leader is the lady Covessa, daughter of baron Charador west of the Capitol, and she is acting quite deluded (among other things druids don’t usually accept recruits like this). There are 30 cultists and 4 cult fanatics including Covessa in the group and they will get violent if anyone tries to detain them
16                           Bandit lord Shamaskar Amaro (a Belladasian rogue) is traveling with 13 tough thugs, but he is currently not up to his usual bandit-self. Amaro seeks to travel to Askalos where he intends to pursue marriage with Baraon Mandalas’s daughter Evaria. The Baron may not like this.
17                           A caravan of Belladasian merchants making their way to either the Capitol (1-3) or Aeornin (4-6). They will have a handful of +1 spears that were crafted to be collectible masterwork items, but will sell them for 1500 GP apiece. The caravam master is Ruus Hudan, and he travels with a sorcerer from his home land called Tarsa. She is very good at divination.
18                           A caravan of Hyrkanian merchants heading to (1-3) or from (4-6) Aeornin. They have a 10% chance of some interesting magic being for sale, but otherwise mostly will have useful mundane goods.
19                           A group of four odd looking men and women in ragged garb but well armed with what looks like surplus military gear from the war. The leader is a woman named Lakuna Helbyrn (Fighter level 11) and she will explain that they are on a mission to Aeornin of secrecy; the group is carrying a small coffer in saddle bags that contains a crystal skull; the coffer is enchanted to explode with fire if anyone tries to open it (DC 14 DEX save or take 8D8 fire damage for 10 feet). The man at the end of the expedition is Severus Prine, a tiefling warlock of some repute in Aeornin. He’ll pay 1,500 GP for receipt of the coffer unopened. Lakuna may ask the PCs to assist if they indicate major trouble ahead…..she’ll offer 75 GP apiece for an escort.

20                           A contingent of 12 paladins and priests of Naril from the Capitol that are following Eirik Kalgornin (rogue 1/paladin 9) in an effort to patrol and eradicate strife in the troubled province. Eirik will promise adventurers that the Throne and Church will pay 5,000 GP if the adventurers take up the task so Eirik can instead fulfill his ultimate duty of delivering scrolls to Qaliad.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

D&D 5E Saturday Creature Factory: The Gargantuan Spider

Because giant spiders just aren't big enough, that’s why!

I used the giant spider in the MM as a base, but the gargantuan spider is simply a must-have for any high level game. When the spider as big as a Volkswagen no longer terrifies, try one bigger than a gas station instead!

CR 17 (18,000 XP)
Unaligned gargantuan beast
Initiative +2
AC 17 (natural chitinous armor)
HP 300 (20D20+80)
Speed 40 feet
Melee Attack – Bite +10 to hit (reach 15 feet, one creature) 8D10+12 piercing damage and the target must make a DC 18 CON save or take an additional 8D12 poison damage (half on a successful save). Targets bitten in this manner which are reduced to zero hit points begin to liquefy internally and roll disadvantage on death saves; if the target stabilizes he remains paralyzed for one hour afterward, even if hit points are brought back up to 1 or more.
Ranged Weapon Attack – Web-Blast (Recharge 5-6) +11 to hit (20 foot cone; all targets in area of effect); all targets in cone radius that are hit are also restrained. Targets in the area of effect can make a STR Save DC 19 to break free and move five feet. Any target moving into a webbed area is immediately restrained. Webbing is AC 10 and HP 30 (vulnerable to fire; immune to bludgeoning, poison and psychic).
STR 22 (+6), DEX 14 (+2), CON 18 (+4), INT 5 (-3), WIS 12 (+1), CHA 4 (-3)
Skills: Stealth +7
Languages: none, though gargantuan spiders are cunning enough to grasp the meaning of some words
Senses: blindsight 60’, darkvision 60’, Perception +6 (passive 16)
Spider Climb – gargantuan spiders can climb like their brethren, though they often can’t find the surface space for proper purchase. Unlike their brethren they are unable to hang upside down due to their immense size and weight, so their spider climbing is limited to vertical surface only on which they can gain purchase.
Spider Senses – gargantuan spiders have web sense and web walker like regular giant spiders.

Gargantuan spiders haunt the darkest forests and deepest caverns. It is possible they are the long-lived survivors of giant spider kind grown immense with age, or they could be some natural denizen that was mutated by a mad wizard, planar magic, or weird interbreeding. Either way, they are terrifying.

Because of their size gargantuan spiders can’t hang upside down and they no longer spray strands of web but more of a “blanket” of webbing that hits an entire area….after which they pick and choose what they like to eat using their liquefying venom.