Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Encumbrance Variant in D&D 5e

Tucked away in the 5e Player's Handbook, on page 176, is a small paragraph detailing a variant encumbrance rule.  You're still weighed down and can't move if you carry 15x your Strength score.  But now there are gradations.  If you carry 10x your Strength, your Speed is -20, and at 5x Strength your Speed is -10.  I can just see the poor, heavily encumbered gnome waddling along at a Speed of 5.

To help the players manage these encumbrance levels, I added some small boxes to the bottom of the character sheet where they can write down their encumbered, heavily encumbered, and overloaded levels.

It turns out that, with just their starting gear, all of the PCs in my game were encumbered, so they all suffered a -10 penalty to Speed.  This proved a rude awakening for the players, and has become somewhat an area of focus in the sessions.  In future posts I'll outline how I use cards to help players more easily calculate their equipment load, and how the lowly backpack has found a center stage tactical role.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Every Roll has Consequences

Getting ready to kick off a D&D 5e campaign, I am going to bring in many of the principles that I learned from running Dungeon World.  One concept from DW that really stuck with me is that every roll has potential consequences.

Too many times, when the party wants to make a Check, if one PC fails, someone else chimes in, "I'll try it."  The player must be thinking, "After all, why not, there's no risk in failure so I might as well try too."

In Dungeon World, every roll can result in a success, a partial success, or a failure.  A partial success leads to a hard bargain or tough decision.  A failure means that the GM can make something bad happen.  That means, the player needs to think twice before they flippantly decide that they want to make a roll.

In practice, this led to interesting developments in my previous Dungeon World game.  One of the characters rolled to explore some ruins, and another character decided to roll to aid them.  The aiding player rolled a failure.  In D&D this usually just means, too bad, you couldn't help.  In Dungeon World, it meant that the player suffered a debility as he sprained his ankle trying to navigate some difficult terrain while he tried to help.  After that experience, the player didn't offer to help again.

These consequences add tension and *decision making* into the game.  It makes it a decision whether to make a roll or not, rather than a "why not."

In the D&D Next playtest packets, there was even an optional mechanic that formalized this, the Hazard rule for Ability Checks.  If you rolled a certain number below the required DC, something bad happens.  I hope that this optional rule survives in the DMG!

I'll be adopting the Hazard rule for 5e.  If the player fails a Check by more than 5, something bad will happen.  For example, if they're exploring a swamp and someone makes a Knowledge Check, and fails by 6 or more, the party might here some loud croaking sounds in the distance.  This foreshadows the presence of Giant Toads in the area.  This is akin the the Signs of Doom advice from Dungeon World.

Consider using a "Hazard" style rule in your games to keep the tension level high, and make each roll a DECISION and not a "why not".

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Passive Perception Conundrum

Consider this situation in D&D 5e:

Praxel the Rogue hides in the shadows of the cavern.  He rolls a Dexterity (Stealth) Check, and rolls a 2.  With his various bonuses he winds up with a total of 6 on his Check.  This value will be contested by any creature moving through that cavern to determine if he's detected.

Grok the Orc advances into the cavern.  He saw Praxel run into these caverns so he's on the lookout for the Rogue.  He thus needs to roll a Wisdom (Perception) Check.  He rolls a 5, and thus fails to detect Praxel.

A little while later, Drok the Orc meanders through the cavern.  He's not aware that an intruder is hiding here, so he takes his Passive Perception score of 10, and detects Praxel out of the corner of his eye!

This illustrates the only major thing in the 5e rules that bother me.  The fact that Grok, who was looking for Praxel, failed to find him, but that Drok, who wasn't looking, could not fail!

I considered just dropping Passive Perception, but I think a creature actively searching should have some kind of advantage.  I noticed in the Phandelver adventure that different DCs are sometimes given to creatures actively searching versus passively perceiving.  So I still think that these rules are in a bit of flux.

After considering several options, I'm leaning toward making Passive Perception a standard WIS (Perception) Check, but at automatic Disadvantage.  I will also roll the PP numbers for the PCs and note them secretly behind the screen (re-rolling as they are used).  This will inject some desired randomness back into the Passive Perception concept, and give active searchers a better chance of discovering something than passive observers.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Fire Elf - D&D 5e Subrace

You come from a branch of Elves that have migrated and adapted to the harsh deserts of the world.  Your skin is a coppery color, and your eyes might range from deep burnt orange to shimmering umber.

Ability Score Increase.  Your Charisma and Constitution scores increase by 1.

Fire Elf Weapon Training.  You have proficiency with the scimitar and the sling.

Heat Resistance.  You are resistant to fire damage.

Desert Native.  You have advantage on any Survival check related to a desert environment.

Ice Dwarf - D&D 5e Subrace

You are a member of the first primordial race, which mastered Elemental Magic as well as Necromancy, and carved out the Underdark before the Drow invaded it.

Alignment.  Most Ice Dwarves are firmly in the Lawful Evil camp.  But the Order of the Ancestors actively opposed this philosophy, and joined the Mountain Dwarves in a war against the Ice Dwarves.  This war purged most of the evil Ice Dwarves from the eastern part of the world.

Ability Score Increase.  Your Intelligence score increases by 1.

Icy Resistance.  You have resistance to cold damage.

Icecunning.  As Stonecunning, but also applies to ice and cold.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

My D&D 5e House Rules

The campaign will kick off in a few weeks and I'm compiling the House Rules for my flavor of 5e.  Slightly more gritty, a tad more old school.  Some of these rules were adopted from previous playtest releases and are likely to show up in the DMG, and others were stolen from Troll and Flame.

Slower Healing
You recover your Hit Dice during a Long Rest, not your full Hit Points.

Encounter Cantrips
Cantrips are not at-will, but you regain them after a Short or Long Rest.

Consequences of Death
Being returned from the dead results in a loss of 1 random Ability point.

After the killing blow, must make a DC 12 INT Check to avoid accidentally killing enemy.  If using a bludgeoning weapon, this is made at Advantage.

Magic Item Attunement
You can attune to a maximum number of magic items equal to your Charisma modifier (minimum 1).

Monday, July 28, 2014

Cat Folk Race for D&D 5e

Cat Folk

Ability Score Increase.  Your Dexterity score increases by 2, and your Charisma score by 1.

Size.  Your size is Medium.

Speed.  Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Darkvision.  You have superior feline vision in dark and dim conditions.  You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light.  You can't discern colors in darkness, only shades of gray.

Keen Senses.  You have proficiency in the Perception Skill.

Stalk.  You have proficiency in the Stealth Skill.

Languages.  You can speak, read and write Common and Felingua, the language of the Cat Folk.

Land on all Fours.  You are resistant to falling damage.

Pounce.  You double the distance that you can jump.