Sunday, June 28, 2015

house rules for [5e]

One of the things I don't like about 5th edition is that I feel like its too easy to bounce back from a fight by taking a long rest. I've had two players in my Dwimmermount game who expressed how they felt clerics were useless, since healing became much less of a concern once resting for 6 hours became a cure-all rinse for HP loss and crippling injuries.

This discussion about 5th edition's superhero tone has led me to meditate some more on what I don't like about 5th edition, and almost everything I don't like is something that was handed down from 4th edition, imagine that!. There are, therefore, a few house rules I plan on installing into my Sunday game:


1) Long Rests take 2+1d4 days, one roll is made for each PC; Long Rests require lots of sleep, no strenuous activity, and plenty of food and water - no more than 2 spells may be cast per day, if any; insuring a Long Rest works without interruption means staying at a monastery, hiding at an inn, holed up in a secret hideout, or something similar; at the end of a Long Rest the character recovers all lost Hit Points as well as all spent Hit Dice

2) Short Rests take 4+1d4 hours, one roll is made for the entire party; Short Rests usually involve sleeping and performing light activities such as reading, talking, eating, or standing watch for no more than 2 hours; during a Short Rest a character can spend Hit Dice to recover Hit Points just as described in the PHB but one use from a Healer's Kit must also be expended, if a character elects not to spend any Hit Dice then they instead recover spent Hit Dice (up to half of their total) at the end of a Short Rest; at the end of a Short Rest each class recovers different abilities
Barbarians: Rage recovers completely
Bards: Bardic Inspiration recovers after a Short Rest
Clerics: Channel Divinity, Domain Powers, and Spell Slots all recover from a Short Rest (Divine Intervention still recovers at the end of Long Rest)
Druids: Wild Shape can be used a number of times equal to the Druid's Proficiency Bonus before requiring a Short Rest, Natural Recovery still works as normal but requires a use from Wild Shape to be expended (which also takes 1 hour)
Fighters: Action Surge, Superiority Dice, and Indomitable all recover from a Short Rest; Battle Masters get twice as many Superiority Dice; Second Wind can be used a number of times equal to the Fighter's Proficiency Bonus before requiring a Short Rest (Constitution of 14+ can increase bonus HP recovered)
Paladins: Divine Sense, Lay on Hands, Channel Divinity, Cleansing Touch, and all 20th-level Oath Powers all recover after a Short Rest
Rogues: Stroke of Luck can be used twice and recovers after a Short Rest
Sorcerers: Sorcery Points and Wild Magic recover after a Short Rest
Wizards: Arcane Recovery can still be used as described (but it also takes 1 hour to use), Specialist Powers recover after a Short Rest

At 5th level, Bardic Inspiration can effect more than one person. As long as somebody can hear you and understand you, you can designate your Bardic Inspiration affects them. Using Bardic Inspiration multiple times doesn't allow Inspiration dice to "stack" more dice together.

Dungeoncrawling and Random Encounters

1) Random encounters only have a chance of happening when the PCs take a Short Rest, exit a room and enter into a hallway within the dungeon, or make enough noise in a room to potentially draw the attention of something within it's Perception range.

2) The curse on an item reveals itself when the item is worn or used, never through Detect Magic or Identify spells.

Non-Player Characters

1) All NPC followers and allies have a secret Loyalty score ranged from 0 to 20, and caps at the highest Charisma in the party. The higher the Loyalty the better. NPCs that are abused, misled, neglected, or ignored lose Loyalty, and NPCs that are treated well, helped, rescued, or otherwise assisted with their bonds and goals gain Loyalty. The score determines how the NPC behaves in stressful situations, but in general, having a Loyalty of 10 or higher means that the NPC is favorably dispositioned to one of the PCs or the entire party.

2) All NPCs have a goal or motivation that determines their natural course of actions. If an NPC with Loyalty has a goal that is at crosspurposes with a PC (or the party), then a Loyalty test is rolled. The DM rolls 1d20 and if the roll is equal to or under the NPCs Loyalty then they continue to act favorably to the PC (or the party as a whole). If the d20 rolls higher than the NPC's Loyalty then they either stop acting in the PC's (party's) best interest either by leaving or working in secret to further their own goal at the cost of a PC's (or the party's) downfall.


1) Inspiration is tied to the player rather than the character. Players can never have more Inspiration than their character's current level, or their highest character's level if they're playing more than one character.

2) Players earn Inspiration by fulfilling or acting upon one of their character's Personality Traits, Ideals, Bonds, or Flaws

3) Inspiration is used to gain Advantage, and three Inspiration is used to turn a failed roll into a success

Death & Retirement

1) If a character dies, retires, or simply leaves onscreen play temporarily, a replacement character starts with half as many XP.

2) If your character dies while fulfilling or acting upon one of their Personality Traits, Ideals, Bonds, or Flaws then your replacement character starts with 75% of your dying character's XP total.

Friday, June 19, 2015

"I'm gonna pimp my undead."
[5e Dwimmermount]

I was planning on including another one of Arnold Kemp's rival adventuring parties in this weeks session, even wrote up stats for this group of NPCs to harry the PCs with, but we were down one player and I didn't want to unleash these enemies without everyone being present.

The session started with some fine-tuning details about hobgoblin patrols on the first level, and then Sulla, Ilona, and Horatius ventured down to the second level to search for the four hobgoblins who refused to follow "Queen" Ilona.

The party ventured south and found the Hall of Truth, a place of legend in Dwimmermount where one could become blessed by the gods. Sulla took a look at the letters on the pillars of the room and translated them for the others. Horatius, led by his lack of self-control, immediately touched the pillars in the correct order and was bestowed with the permanent ability to cast Healing Word. Sulla attempted to do the same but was not blessed by the gods (instead, lost 2 hit points permanently). Ilona declined to make the attempt.

The player of Sulla knows Latin and he asked a few pointed questions about the room and kept saying the letters on the pillar were slightly off because the word was "veritas" and that's when the player of Horatius followed one of his character traits and touched the pillars in the right order, I don't remember if I gave him Inspiration for that or not. I determined the spell by rolling a 1d15 and using the 1st-level cleric spell list.

Horatius led the party west, looking for the western stairwell leading down from the first level, but they eventually found that there were no paths that led that far west. They began looking for secret doors and found a small cache of books worth a great deal of money. Sulla mentioned how valuable he thought the books were and Ilona suggested that at some point they would need the hobgoblins to act as labor to clear out the heavy treasures.

Using Passive Perception merely as an indicator that something was off in the room really helped this scene, because it meant everybody started looking for a secret door and Sulla wasn't merely pointing them out anymore.

They entered a room with broken statuary and one lone statue, Sulla recognized it instantly as an elemental creature of some kind. He attempted to address the creature and it spoke of soft things that deserved death. Horatius grew impatient and struck the creature, it fought briefly but before it could fly away Ilona split it into pieces with her silvered pick.

In the room beyond they found graffiti in a multitude of languages, none of which Sulla understood. There was also a chest (a mimic) filled with 27 scrolls of Comprehend Languages. Sulla used one and found that every line of graffiti said "Seek not the gods!" but behind the identical phrase in a plethora of languages was a spell: Tasha's Hideous Laughter. Without the materials to transcribe the spell Sulla would have to return later.

I'm thinking of including a few unofficial spells from now on since I discovered that Sulla already has a copy of the spell but has simply failed to learn it. More details on these new spells once the PCs stumble upon them.

The room full of graffiti looked nothing like this!

The mimic revealed itself by getting up and walking out of the door. They followed it for a bit then realized it must be going to the same place the previous mimic had traveled to, on a lower level, and so they let it go and returned to exploring the southern areas of the second level.

I cross-post these blog entries to G+ and one of the players read a comment there that asked if these were surveillance mimics and so now he believes these mimics are spying on them, but he hasn't tried to hinder them or kill any of them yet. Primarily because he has no reason to in-game, the two mimics they have crossed paths with have only given them treasure and magic scrolls.

They ran into the four hobgoblins, camped out in one of the southern rooms, and one of them tried to hit Sulla but failed miserably. Sulla responded with a Fireball which incinerated all four of the hobgoblins. (If they had killed or defeated the leader, then the other three hobgoblins would have joined up as followers, especially after the leader's feeble attempt to hit Sulla. I rolled a 1.)

They traveled onward and found a room with more of the silvery-black skeletons guarding an abandoned workshop. Another secret door was discovered behind a tapestry and a small panic room with the centuries-old corpse of a Termaxian cultist was inside. Some very well-preserved wine and food were found in huge barrels and Ilona pointed out that they would have more things for the hobgoblins to carry upstairs.

Their path finally connected to the eastern part of the map and they returned to the throne room, but before they arrived they encountered a gelatinous cube. Horatius almost walked into it and Sulla's skeleton was engulfed and absorbed almost instantly (farewell Zombie Lord skeleton, we hardly knew ye), however this cube was much easier to defeat than the previous one which had harried Ilona and Horatius (and Marius and Brüghaht) on the first level.

I use Gelatinous Cubes often enough that I ought to have a miniature for them! (see image) Everybody's higher in level and does a lot more damage. I was surprised at just how quickly the cube died. I had been rolling for random encounters throughout the session and we were getting close to a good stopping point so I decided to just put a random encounter in, rolling up the cube randomly it made sense that the cube would be trying to get into the throne room since Levity was supposed to be there waiting for the rest of them to catch up.

The party returned to the old throne room, and Sulla took one of the burned hobgoblin corpses and reanimated it as his new skeletal servant. He put the old breastplate from the Zombie Lord onto the skeleton and gave it the Zombie Lord's old greatsword then discussed other ways he might be able to "upgrade" his skeleton, and that's where we ended. We're not playing next week and Levity's player won't be with us the next time we play, so it's possible that Levity was not in the throne room at all.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

"When this day is done, I will make you bow to your new Queen."
[5e Dwimmermount]

So, the last session started with me opening up to my players about how I don't really like the 5th edition rules as a whole. I don't plan on changing the ruleset that we're using for this campaign because this started as an experiment. I wanted to GM Dwimmermount and I also wanted to try out the 5th edition rules. I'm enjoying both, but I'm not enjoying the feel of the rules as the PCs ascend in level. The crux of my complaints can be read throughout the comments at this link. I've played a little loose with the gameplay timeline so that I can highlight in this post moments where the rules hit up against my own personal preferences for gameplay.

After resting, the party interviewed the hobgoblins about the dead-but-not-dead things roaming the halls. Rigob spoke of a Zombie Lord that controlled the dead things, and Poach drew them a map which included where their guard posts were. The map was informative, and later they learned it was mostly accurate, but it added very little to what they had already explored.

They ventured to the room where the Zombie Lord could be found and in a very short time came face-to-face with him. He was dressed as an ancient Thulian guardsman and he spoke Old Thulian, surrounded by his zombie minions the Lord declared that the group were trespassers who should submit to his rule. When Sulla declared "Queen" Ilona the rightful ruler of Dwimmermount the Zombie Lord spat "I will never bow to her!" and Sulla disagreed as battle was engaged.

During this fight I got to use reaction on the monster side, which surprised one of my players when he broke through the zombie ranks. It only took them about 4 rounds to destroy the Zombie Lord and all of his zombies, with only a few injuries sustained on their side. At the time this rankled me a little bit because the Zombie Lord only got about two hits in, and he was supposed to be the "boss" of this level. He lasted longer when compared to King Rukruk, which was also a fight I felt was over too quickly.

After they defeated the Zombie Lord, Sulla used one of his spells to reanimate the corpse of the Lord as a skeleton servant and also spotted a secret door leading eastward from the room. Following the path they found another secret door which opened into a pristinely preserved temple.

Passive Perception became something I didn't like in this room. The module doesn't really give a difficulty for discovering the secret door here, but I assumed it would be pretty difficult to find. Sulla's Passive Perception is above 20 and in the moment I simply said "You've found a secret door" but in hindsight I think Passive Perception is too much like a video game mechanic. I don't want it to be an ability that just hands the players a solution to a problem. I decided that from now on when somebody's Passive Perception triggers something I will simply give hints as to what it is, whether it's noise at the end of a tunnel or an unnatural breeze inside of a closed room, but they have to make the narrative decision to engage with the environment and discover what their senses are telling them.

Horatius felt uncomfortable entering the temple, and Levity's skin burned when he tried to pass the secret door leading inside. Horatius had made it to the other side of the temple and discovered a vast crevasse in the next chamber beyond. Levity refused to enter the temple at all. There were two statues on their side of the crevasse and Horatius looked for the closest place to cross over, tied a rope around one statue and himself, then jumped across the chasm. He made it to the other side, and Braak soon crawled across the crevasse along the rope, but nobody else was willing to follow Horatius.

The party decided to split up at this point, with Braak and Horatius continuing east beyond the crevasse and the rest of the party following the northeast passage from the Zombie Lord's chamber.

I just accidentally misspelled that as Xombie. NEW MONSTER! Anyway. I rolled twice for both groups to possibly encounter a wandering monster but the dice favored the players and they didn't encounter anything.

They both found a wide hallway, and very soon met up with each other since they could see each others' lanterns.

Horatius began opening the doors in the hallway, They found a pair of huge dogs that appeared to be on fire. He quickly closed the door and announced to everybody what he had seen. They prepared to reopen the door and engage in a fight, with Sulla muttering that he didn't have many magical options for fighting creatures made of fire, and Horatius said "I thought all wizards could throw lightning bolts?!" The players frequently tabletalk about Sulla's spell list and I translate this as their characters arguing about what magic is capable of, it allows me to say things like "These orcs come barging into the room, they clearly heard you arguing about Sulla's spells."

Horatius flung the door open and the dogs were gone. They took a few cautious steps into the room and one of the dogs came running from around the corner, flame sputtering off it's sides, and it breathed out a gout of flame that engulfed most of them. Battle was engaged and soon they were surrounded by the two hounds who burst forth fiery sprays of heat from their jaws. They killed the two dogs with little trouble then decided to continue down the hall to the south.

Here is a situation where I used two monsters with intelligence and tactical aplomb, only to see it come to no avail. The hell hounds were flanking and using their breath weapons to maximum effectiveness and the party was never afraid of the danger, they cut down the hounds in literally 2 rounds of combat.

Behind another set of doors, they found some zombies and a mimic. They managed to communicate with the mimic for awhile, and Sulla tried to have his zombie servant escort the mimic back to the throne room, but it wandered off further into the dungeon. Mimics only appear in two places in Dwimmermount as written. I have decided to add mimics to Dwimmermount in copious amounts, and I've also made them intelligent, and I've also given them an agenda. Before this adventure I have never, ever used mimics before.

Venturing southward, the party found a room filled with wooden statues. When Levity expressed interest in one by knocking on it, one of the statues came to life and knocked him down to the ground. Before anybody could react, the wooden statue stomped Levity into unconsciousness then proceeded to stand still again. They dragged Levity away from the room and forced a potion of healing down his throat, then collectively decided "We don't go back to that room unless we plan on setting it on fire."

From this point forward, I have beefed up the monsters to make them more challenging. I also got lucky with the rolls for those attacks against Levity. The monster was a wood golem that took everybody by surprise and managed to get a critical hit in on Levity before he could act himself.

After a little more healing for Levity, they pressed onward. Horatius led the way and took the party west and away from the wide hallway. He soon found himself in an impenetrably dark room where his lantern seemed to attract the very shadows along the walls. Surrounded by shadows he felt his strength draining, and both Horatius and Ilona lashed out at the shadows futilely. Sulla's magic made quick work of the shadowy creatures, but not before they had weakened Horatius to the point where he could barely stand carrying the weight of his armor and weapons.

This combat took 4 rounds! The shadows nearly killed Horatius which seems appropriate given that they no longer have a cleric in the party, but one long rest later and Horatius is back to full HP and the effects of the Strength drain are completely gone. *shaking my head*

Retreating back to a hobgoblin guard post north along the corridor, the party decides to consolidate what they have. Both Rigob and Poach were feeling a bit confused that the Queen was exploring the ruins as if the hobgoblins weren't there and ignoring that the food supply was diminished. They demanded that they be given attention and Ilona agreed, they needed to be fed if they were going to follow her. The party decided to retreat from the second level with all of the hobgoblins for now and rest on the first level while they drew up their plans.

Ilona decided she needed to cement her control over Dwimmermount and the hobgoblins gave her the perfect opportunity to do so. Between Ilona, Sulla, and Horatius they coordinated how they would send Braak back to Muntburg to buy food, and they also needed to send a message to Tsetsig and Marius that they would need a regular supply of food to be brought to Dwimmermount.

The last hour of the game was literally just working out all of these details.

Upon returning to the first level the party turned the desecrated temple to Mavors into their base of operations, ignoring the secret door for now.

The hobgoblins would need to patrol and maintain the first level, so they showed the hobgoblins their map and explained all of the dangers of the first level. Guards would be set at the main entrance and the two stairwells leading down into Dwimmermount (but not the secret entrance or the elevator!) and both Tsetsig and Marius would need to return so that they could recognize him and give him safe passage. Ilona set about constructing a makeshift sigil for her house so that her family would also recognize the hobgoblins and not attack them when they arrived.

Braak returned to Muntburg with Poach following behind him. Having grown bored in Muntburg after the last three days, Marius was climbing up the mountain to Dwimmermount and encountered Braak along the way. All three traveled to Muntburg to acquire food then return to Dwimmermount, and the next session is set to begin with their return...

The reason the map looks like its constructed of three pieces of paper is not because I'm bad at drawing maps (though I did make one mistake when drawing one of the hallways of this level) but when I start drawing a map for a dungeon level I hand the piece of paper to one of the players and instruct them how to draw a box for the stairs, letting them place the entrance on the paper. That way, I don't purposefully reveal how the dungeon is laid out by putting the stairs on the grid paper myself.

I will likely offer this explanation every time I show off a map that looks like it was put together with scraps of paper rather than one sheet.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

"This ugly little thing is under my protection!"
[5e Dwimmermount]

After a month of not gaming at all and a long recap with the players, we got back into the dungeon. We've had two sessions since our long break and this is a summary of the first of those two. I'll write up the second session tomorrow and also share the current map.

The characters met Rukruk, the Hobgoblin "king" of Dwimmermount, and proceeded to murder him. Rukruk was holding a smaller creature, with a row of segmented eyes and black skin, that he was convinced had somehow betrayed him. He let the creature go in order to fight the party, and his elite guards came to assist him, but Rukruk fell before any of the guards could affect the battle. As the guards fell, soon only two were left and Sulla demanded that they surrender to Queen Ilona. One backed away from the battle, but the other vowed to fight to the death, and he was cut down by Ilona.

With only one of Rukruk's bodyguards left alive along with the small black-skinned creature, Sulla and Eppius began questioning the two, while Braak occasionally translated for Ilona and Horatius. They soon learned that from Poach, the hobgoblin, that there were about 20 other hobgoblins on this level and at least one scouting party that should be returning to Rukruk's throne room. Klayqus, the small black-skinned creature (originally a thorgrin) detailed how his tribe had no leader, that they were merely trying to survive and he was sent to negotiate a treaty with Rukruk. During the conversation he mentioned that he worshiped Arach-Nacha, the demon lord of spiders, and this enraged Eppius. Sulla declared that Klayqus was under his protection and a fight ensued, and Ilona cut Eppius down almost instantly.

the player playing Eppius had already planned on swapping out to a new character, so everybody was just looking for an excuse to kill Eppius off

Poach spoke of dead-but-alive things that roamed the halls of Dwimmermount, and Klayqus spoke hatefully of his tribe's enmity with the ranine. Klayqus then retreated to a lower level, informing Sulla that if they travel deeper into Dwimmermount they should use the stairwell next to Rukruk's throne, since the other stairwell is being guarded by others of his kind.

As the party backtracked their route, looking for a safe place to camp and rest, they ran into the hobgoblin patrol that Poach spoke of. The patrol was composed of mostly females, led by an outspoken hobgoblin named Rigob. They were dragging a captured tiefling behind them. Poach declared that Ilona was their new Queen and they were charged with retaking and restoring Dwimmermount, which Rigob was skeptical of at first but when Ilona spoke in common to her "subjects" Rigob quickly accepted her rulership and in turn revealed that the hobgoblins all understood the common tongue. The tiefling was freed and introduced himself as Levity, a jester from another world.

Levity is a bard, and it was explained that Levity traveled through a portal to Telluria into Muntburg and has learned a little about Telluria and Dwimmermount and decided to go exploring after hearing recent rumors of groups going up the mouintain, Levity found many headless orc corpses and eventually found a stairwell that he ventured down, while examining a room with many broken silvery-black skeletons (level 2B, room 1) he was captured by the hobgoblin patrol

Levity forgave the hobgoblins rather quickly once he was released, and the group decided to make camp in the main throne room. Over the next 10 hours, the other hobgoblin patrols and guard posts were recalled to the throne room, and most of the hobgoblins swore fealty to Queen Ilona. Only four hobgoblins left claiming that they would not follow Ilona, and Sulla made a mental note of which way they traveled so that he could help hunt them down and kill them later. Ilona also made note that a great majority of these hobgoblins were female.

I made hints that Rigob and Poach were a little restless with Rukruk's rulership, and tried to hint that they were hopeful for more information about how Dwimmermount had fallen, but at first the players were ignoring the hobgoblins' personalities. You can assume that this is what Poach and most of these hobgoblins looks like...