Monday, July 28, 2014

Morale, Reaction Rolls in any kind of D&D

I've talked before about how I don't handle reaction rolls well. Basic has two regular 2d6 rolls the GM makes: reaction rolls and Morale.

Where I'm coming down on this has to do with map and proximity.

Sufficiently intelligent NPCs (say, anything above animal intelligence) have their behavior largely determined by their position on the map and their relative proximity to "dangerous areas" and "bosses."

Bosses, in this case being named/senior NPCs who are likely interested in and in the position to boss around other NPCs ("named" being obvious, "senior" being the designated leader based on the edition's distributions (for every x of y there is a +1HD +1 Damage version of y) or maybe just even a superior hp roll (the one orc with max hp in a level of middling hp orc). You act right and proper when the boss is around.

Dangerous areas being points of ingress/egress from what the NPC considers "my place" and the "not my place" parts of the dungeon and pretty much everywhere in the Wilderness. You act tough and alert when your life depends on it.

Outside of this context, reasonably intelligent NPC are doing the things reasonably intelligent NPCs do: they're eating, lounging, arguing, gaming, painting, torturing something, masturbating, reading, playing with their kids, having sex, etc. You can make a list of these depending on the type of enemy or their culture, etc. You then tick off each entry on the list as you encounter more enemies (the first ones are eating, second ones are lounging, etc); if you do it this way, repeat actions that feel more common or likely.

The party encounters some goblins pulling the wings off moths and playing a dice game.

The PCs are inside goblin territory. They don't necessarily appear as threats to the goblins and, the goblins not being on guard duty or being near an authority figure, don't really have any obligations to fulfill. They leap for weapons and watch the characters (neither groups were surprised) warily.

The players can then choose to attack, but they can also choose to talk. Interpret what the players ask as the goblins: they are saying things. what do those things ask of "us"?

If the players are bluffing, pretending to be allies and that's a reasonable thing for them to do in this context, then you roll a 2d6. If you beat the goblin's morale (7), the goblins buy it. If you don't, they don't.

Moldvay even accommodates situations in which parley still feels appropriate, even around a "boss" type (say, negotiating with surprised or overwhelmed opponents). Just add 2 to their Morale.

Morale is employed as a metric in the older Basics of how likely a character is to break and run or crumple and plead for mercy when the swords came out and allies died.

Fundamentally, the idea here is that the mechanics and fictional positioning conspire to make the game inherently opposed to the characters where it ought to be and more plastic where that makes more sense too. It asks more of GMs (who will need to determine if creatures attack immediately or not), but also much less (how easy it is to push NPCs around). As with any tweak like this, it smooths edges that are often satisfyingly uneven, but so far it's worked pleasingly (it also creates some rough edges of its own.

5e with DCs or NOT
Personally, I'd go with not. I've got a lot of experience with Moldvay and remembering or extrapolating morale scores is pretty easy. Goblins in Moldvay have a morale of 7 (58% chance of success or roughly, a DC10) unless there is a boss around, in which case it's 9 (30% chance or DC15).
An 8 morale means PCs doing a good job have a 45% chance of success (DC12).
A 10 Morale means PCs doing a good job have a 17% chance (DC17).

attribution: Leonora Carrington

Thursday, July 24, 2014

you are in a field of tall green grass - more 5e setting stuff (lots of monsters)

more on that 5e starting area hexcrawl thing.

let me know if the links don't work.

there are probably some typos/math errors in the monsters. Nothing major. Building 5e monsters seemed pretty easy, which probably means I've screwed them up.

In the text, the italicized text is meant to call out mechanics, die rolls or GM-significant stuff.

“in a field of green grass that reaches to the shoulders”

"grass varies from 3-6’ tall. d4+2

the grass is untouched and sways in the wind, and is just really, really long grass that somehow is able to stand upright like corn without being wider, etc.

grass moving in a pattern or against the wind or bird flight is the likeliest sign of something incoming. Surprise is rolled with an advantage by all parties that are using the grass to their advantage (locals always do).

The grass is slow to burn without an accelerant. mass burn-offs using accelerant are likely to disturb large, hunting myriapodia, confusing the sudden flash of heat for a nearby food source."

"The ground is uneven, rich, black, lumpy but soft, full of holes and strange rises. It writhes with an overabundance of life, especially with annelids and myriapoda.

when all-out running, the ground should be treated as a falling hazard,  requiring a DC 20 DEX Save to avoid being knocked prone. horses and similar destriers may break a leg when they fail this Save.

when rolling a 5 or less on this Save, the character falls 10’ below into a roiling horror of enormous biting myriapoda and venom and blind hunger and madness. Climbing out without help takes a round and a DC 15 check. First round of exposure is 9 (d20) damage, second is 19 (2d20), etc."

daytime encounters (wandering encounters are rolled twice, once for day and once for night)

d20encountersecond rollnotes
12-5 red birdsd4+1
23-30 gazelle3d10
32-8 young lithobius2d4
41-2 lithobiusany die/2
5an archispirostreptusany die/2 (see note)50% chance it's startled, being chased by 1-2 lithobius
6 - 83-30 bin warblers3d10
9 - 12spidersee entry(4d10)
13 - 1530-300 oracle swallow"a lot" or 30d10
165-8 swamp peopled4+4
1730-300 swamp people30d10
18an evangelist of tormentonesee the names of the evangelists
191-2 giant hunting spidersany die/2 (see note)50% chance for each that it is accompanied by d10 host
201-2 Oji Scarabany die/2

attribution: John Hallmen

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Bad Evangelists, a magic item, a Hex/Hex layout

There are three parts to this post as I continue to work through my hex-y 5e thing. 1 is a how I'm doing hex keying. Thoughts very much welcome. The second is an item, which is how I'm seeing a lot of smaller, random magic items work out (in my head, at this point). The last is more on the Evangelists of Torment.

The general format is intended to leave space on the left for notes or to refer to other locations (a la Carcosa) and the space on the left delineates when something is available. Entries in the same row, separated by a semi colon are usually something more specific or a different visual "beat" in the description. The options thus far for the conditional/right hand column are:

always   is whatever is evidently here when you're just passing through

careful   is stuff happens when the players spend time carefully poking around

time       is stuff that happens only at a certain time (first time here, night, day being the three                      I've used thus far)

DC X     being a gate behind which things are put. Rolled stat/skill is determined by context.

Here is an actual example:

former farm house, mostly just its stone walls and floor and rotten ceiling boards and walls;
the grass thins and reaches the knees rather than shoulder in large rectangular spaces around the house

child’s voice singing backwards under the flagstones
at night

the flagstones don’t sit quite evenly (under is the dolorous poppet)
DC 15

the dolorous poppet. a child’s doll stuffed with soft blond hair and little teeth. an arcane focus granting advantage 1/session on any check relating to infernals or deep places or far places.

I posted the Evangelist of Torment 5e stat block at the bottom of this post. Something in between dragon and deity. I think I need to up their CR a bit and maybe give them a recharge power. Part of the below is for figuring out who is around when you com calling the first time and part of this is for clerics.

roll d6+1 to determine the number of Evangelists
roll d10s that number of times to determine which Evangelists. Multiple rolls indicate a greater presence.
roll d6 to determine which nest is where. if there is increased presence, they are currently in residence at more than one nest/palace (roll again).

as a bird
a snub, jagged beak, slightly erratic from parasites in its inner ear that occasionally peek out and tries to tell it what to do.
as a humanoid
an old woman of crooked aspect and prodigious hair under which she hides her clawed feet. Often talks to her parasites
the fingers of painters or doctors, the beak of Lugh to wear over its own
Kutkh, anyone asking too many questions, anyone disturbing its near-constant naps
as a bird
its body crackles with bolts of energy, like storms beneath its feathers
as a humanoid
drunk, occasionally gripped by paralytic spasms, winged, bloody-mouthed
to drink, to fight until no one sober is left living and everyone living is dying of drink
Mag, Lugh, Huginn, the sun, seriousness, questions
as a bird
vicious, scabby-eyed, beak split down the middle, opens as normal or along split
as a humanoid
one head bearing two faces that speak simultaneously (only one is audible at a time, the other speaks thoughts. Na’Satja has no thoughts other than when it speaks)
the tongues of lawyers and bureaucrats, the brains of scientists and philosophers, the moon hiding behind our moon
books, maps, paintings and other records, science, philosophy, civilization, Indra
as a bird
all 343 of its eyes have been bound or pierced or spiked with an inscribed silver pin
as a humanoid
arthritic, swollen hands and knees, blind-looking eyes (that see just fine)
the wealth of kings and merchants, the simplicity of beggars
everyone and thing
as a bird
three-headed, razor-sharp feathers slice whatever they touch, leaving cuneiform behind
as a humanoid
monstrously proportioned sex organs, pregnant, decked in an infinity of weapons
endless destruction, endless birth
Lugh, celibates, opposition
as a bird
emaciated, its claws are black, wrought iron
as a humanoid
robed in feathers growing from it, magisterial, crowned in human bone, scepter is a smooth, slim arm
everything is to be taxed (breath, dreams, thoughts, battles, births, deaths, names)
justice, kindness to the poor, order, safety, comfort
as a bird
leaves ink stains where it rests, appears as one bird or several or your mother or a king
as a humanoid
wears a crimson silk blindfold, ink-stained fingers, trails catalog cards and charts, writes using a brush of eyelashes
the cessation of time until it has caught up
time, fiction, imagination, sleep
as a bird
flaming with negative light, clattering with bones
as a humanoid
gigantic, wreathed in a halo of black flame, armed with a spear and a clawed right hand, wears bodies from hooks around its waist like scalps
order, power, the humiliation of others, empire
weakness, Sauru, opposition
as a bird
body laced with torcs and it’s wings tingle from chimes of bronze and steel
as a humanoid
wind-burned, rugged, moustachioed or bearded or wild-haired, always with a black horse and a white horse and sword that always drips blood, usually at the head of a multitude
conquest, the spread of its seed regardless of the subjects willingness or capacity
everything not of its host
It Shits In the Water
as a bird
as any other, also appears as a black monkey or grinning, pregnant dog
as a humanoid
usually a young man or woman with a bulging sack or pack, always grinning
to finish telling the joke that ends the world, to make the world again
serious things like anything that isn’t strictly animal, including civilization, language, and the other Evangelists

attributions: Lucas/Richard Windsor, Wilfried Satty

Monday, July 21, 2014

you are in a field of tall green grass

So, I've been working on a big hex thing. BIG! But whatever I eventually share will be much smaller. Because of things.

Here is part of the details of a starting area (note: 5e based)

starting area:
“you are in a field of green grass that reaches to the shoulders”

"The ground is uneven, rich, black, lumpy but soft, full of holes and strange rises. It writhes with an overabundance of life, especially with annelids and myriapoda.

when running, the ground should be treated as a falling hazard,  requiring a DC 20 DEX Save to avoid being knocked prone.

horses and similar destriers may break a leg when they fail this Save.

when rolling a 1 on this Save, the character falls below into a roiling horror of enormous biting myriapoda and venom and blind hunger and madness. -3 SAN/round. The characters below 100 hp are automatically reduced to unconsciousness. Other characters take 104 (10d20) piercing and poison damage (divide evenly, if it’s important) and dies per the rules."


huge devil, lawful evil
AC 16 (Natural Armor)
HP 119 (16d12+16)
Spd 40’/60’(fly)
18(+4) 18(+4) 12(+1) 20(+5) 22(+6) 18(+4)
Skills Perception+4, Deception+4, Persuasion+7
Senses truesight 60’, darkvision 120’,
pass per 20
Languages Deep Speech, Infernal, Common
Magic Res. spells affect with disadvantage
Immunities immune to charm-like effects, non-
magical damage
Challenge 8 CR (3,900 XP)
Shapechange. May appear as a raven or in its
actual form, or a raven-like or raven-human
chimera of any size between the two.
Multiattack. May Peck/Claw twice a round.

The First Sound. Caws once and rips light from
creation. Darkness 30’ radius anywhere within
sight. Counts as a level 8 spell.

The Final Sound. Caws twice and rends sound.
As Silence, but a level 8 spell, 60’ radius
anywhere within sight, from which the Evangelist
is exempt. Any attempt to speak while thus
silenced causes suffocation.

Rapt. Stamps once and a 20’ radius of any non-
magical ground is turned to a rust-flecked mud.
DC 20 DEX Save to avoid falling for 7 (2d6)
bludgeoning damage. Vines spring from the
muddy pit and hold victims in place (DC 20 STR
to break), dealing 18 (4d8) slashing damage in
the process. Bound targets take 4 (d8) slashing

We Are His Eyes. Spreads wings wide, all seven
times seven eyes open wide and the Evangelist
radiates oppression. 30’ gaze attack dealing 14 (4d6)
radiant damage to all within range and causing them
to bud half as many eyes (small, black, like a birds)
on their body (DC 25 CHA Save halves damage only).
No matter the distance between the afflicted and the
Evangelist, the Evangelist may see through these eyes
at any range, and may influence anyone bearing the eyes
as a level 8 Command or level 6 Charm (lasts 1 day) (may
compel self-harm (DC 15 CHA save to avoid)).

Peck/Claw. melee attack +8 to hit, reach 5’-10’ (per
current size), one target hit  2 (d4) piercing damage

Huge raven-like creatures or large humanoids with
some raven features (beak or wings or feet). Their heads
and wings, along the base of the underwing coverts
each sport seven-49 eyes in asymmetrical clusters.
There are 343 of the Evangelists operating at any
moment, but normally only seven in any given continent on
a plane. Clerics may pray to them for aid."   

attributions: gif from Altered States, something else
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