Thursday, June 27, 2019

Societal Castes - A Status System

               In many societies one’s place within that society is tightly governed. People tend to naturally know who is above and below them in the social structures of life. For most, this is a ridged caste system that has little flexibility, but for adventurers and heroes the system is a bit more elastic. All Status radiates down from the top. The rulers of great nations are at the top, and everyone else falls into a place all the way down to the beggars on the street. This is an attempt to apply a mechanic to that social structure and have it reflected in game. A person is expected to show deference to a person of higher Status, the wider the gap in Status, the more deference is expected. 

               Status is measured as a number up to 15, which reflects someone’s tiered position. The supreme monarch of a land, and only the supreme monarch, has the Status of 15. Character’s Status is reflected by their current level, up to level 9. This represents the culmination of reputation for the deeds they achieved and the respect that has been earned. Status beyond nine can only be acquired via money and position. Status cannot exceed 14, unless you are a supreme monarch of an area. Below is a list of positive modifiers.
  • +1 for maintaining a monthly lifestyle of 500GP+
  • +1 Minor Nobility, Local Positon, or Commendation 
  • +1 Holy Man or Monk
  • +2 Middle Nobility, County Position, or Commendation
  • +3 High Nobility, Regional Position, or Commendation
  • +3 Revered Religious Figure or Sect Leader
  • +4 Monarch Court Position, or High Commendation
  •  Misc. Modifiers the GM perceives as important

               PCs are one of the few people in most societies that can adjust their Status in life. Most people and almost all NPCs are born with the same Status as their parents, and they will pass that Status to their children. GMs should assign an appropriate Status to NPCs based on their role in the campaign. A general guideline is that everyday people should range from 1 - 4, respected local officials range between 5 - 9, and nobility range between 10 - 14.

Most monsters will not respect Status, but the Djinn are a different case.

               Whenever a person of lower Status is acting on behalf of someone of higher Status their words and actions hold more social weight. When someone of lower Status directly acts at the request of someone with higher Status, their Status will increase to half of the higher Status (rounded up) plus 1. If this would actually lower the person’s Status, just make it a flat plus 1 bonus. This might sound confusing so I will provide a few examples.

Example #1: The lowly Status 1 guard is going to arrest a local noble who has a Status of 7. The guard is acting under direct orders from the Sultan’s Vizier who is Status 14. The guard will have temporary status equal to 8 (Half the Vazier’s Status 7 plus 1 equals 8). Normally the guard would be expected to show great deference to the local noble, but when representing the Vizier he can speak with more authority.

Example #2: The Status 14 Vizier is requesting that an old friend of his, Sahib Rasheed, to take a contingent of guards and arrest the local noble. Sahib Rasheed’s Status is 11. Since half the Vizier’s Status plus 1 is only 8, and his is naturally higher, Sahib Rasheed just adds the plus one to his own Status for the time being. While acting under the Vizier’s orders Sahib Rasheed’s Status is effectively 12.
               Status is a mechanic that should mostly be roleplayed, but for PCs it can have mechanical weight. Whenever a PC makes a reaction check with an NPC, subtract the NPC’s Status from the PCs and have that as a modifier for the roll, whether positive or negative. The GM has discretion on when/how this is used. If the PCs have a low Status, but are staying as guests in a noble’s home Status the mechanic might not be needed. If the PCs are threatening a person of higher Status, or testifying in court against them, then the mechanic will certainly play into the proceedings. 

Money and Status has its advantages.

               It would not be far from historic precedent to have different codes of law and punishments for people of different Status ranks. Nobles might have the right to not be accused of a crime by people significantly below them. They might have the right to trial by combat, or to only be put to death by beheading. On the other side of the coin, those of significant Status might not be allowed to associate with people significantly below them, or to travel into certain areas of the city without notice. Certain marriages might be forbidden due to a gap in status between the couple. Certain articles of clothing, or even certain colors might be forbidden. The owning of certain items might be illegal unless one is of a certain Status.
               Status can be lost in one of two ways; being convicted of a major crime or losing all of one’s wealth. Status cannot go below 1, unless the person falls prey to one of these conditions. The first, conviction of a major crime, is subjective to the setting and for the GM to have final word. What is a major crime in one area, might be a rather pedestrian offense in another. Losing all of one’s wealth, and being deeply in debt can rob you of all station in life. Becoming a beggar on the streets is one of the simplest ways for a society to completely overlook you. Once the character has paid down their debt, and “reestablished” themselves their Status can be restored. In either of these cases, the person in question Status is reduced to zero. 
               Being a stranger in a strange land can also effect status, in that your status is always considered one less than a native in a similar position. Thus, a 3rd level foreign born fighter, would only have a Status of two.  Even with this rule though, foreign born people cannot go below one Status, without being convicted of a major crime, or becoming penniless. 

My Dad was not happy with my major.
               I think some people will say, "Why bother with these rules, this should be purely roleplay." Which I agree to an extent, but you make a mechanic for something in order to emphasize it. These structures in life are real, but often in RPGs are ignored. My undergrad degree is in Sociology, and I taught it for several years. You cannot get away from the three P's of Sociology in a society; Power, Prestige, and Privilege. I think that the Status mechanic is a crude representation of all these, but one that can actually work in the structure of this type of game.

D&D Without Combat Rebuttal

               I recently read an article on Master the Dungeon called D&D Without Combat and I had a few thoughts on that idea. Can D&D be done without combat? Yes, but why would you? D&D does roughly three things each progressively worse, Combat, Exploration, and Roleplay. The rules support the first portion, Combat, quite explicitly. The rules are decent for Exploration as well, though you have to dig into the most DMGs to get the main thrust of that. D&D, regardless of edition, has either none or very few rules in support of Roleplaying.

This is the blog in question.

               Often I will be on the Facebook groups and a question will come up like this, “I want to run a game where my players are trying to solve a mystery and I don’t want to have any combat. How should I do it?” My standard answer is, “Don’t use D&D.” Why would you try and fit a square peg into a round hole? To be fair, the article admits, “Other systems might be more convenient for this, but we play DnD(sic)”. I find this to be a very silly conceit, “We play D&D therefore”. You don’t have to play D&D, there are other games out there that do not do combat well, but do mysteries very well. The Gumshoe System springs to mind, but there are plenty of other. 

Trying to cram D&D into every paradigm of gaming.

               I have literally played over 200 different RPG in my day, and for the past several years I was very into the Indie RPG scene. The games people produce can be ultra-specific to the exact thing you want to do. Why are you trying to shoehorn D&D into a one size fits all model? Do you want to play a game about the stresses of war and the bonds it can create, play Night Witches? Do you want a game about inexperience, young adults having to make life and death decisions about others, play Dogs in the Vineyard? Want to play a game about supernatural creatures and the torrid relationships they can get into, play, Monsterhearts? These games all have small premises, but do that one thing really well. 
               I do not want to get too hyperbolic, but this was the issue that brought about the “Dark Days” of D&D when 3.5 was out, and the entire RPG industry was making 3.5 products. The creativity in the market was stripped bare, because everything had to be “3.5 compatible” or it was not wanted and could not sell. This created a glut of product on the market, and the entire industry suffered, not just WotC. I think the people at WotC are being smart these days and not trying to make D&D an “everything” system, and focusing it on its strengths; Combat, Exploration, and some light Roleplaying.
            I do not think there is anything inherently wrong with playing a non-combat D&D game. The author of the articles does have some good ideas if you choose to do it. I just think you might be better served to try and find a game that does what you want in a better fashion. We are not living in the 1970s anymore, and only have a few games to choose from. There are thousands of choices out there, you just have to open to it. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Old School Essentials Genre Books Preview – Part 2

               I hope everyone enjoyed last week’s preview with the Paladin class. This week we are taking a slightly different route and examining a few of the new spells that are being offered in the Old School Essentials Advance Fantasy: Druid and Illusionist Spells. One thing that I cannot stress enough is that if you are buying one of the add-on books for Advance Fantasy, you really need to add both of them. The Illusionist and Druid are introduced and both books are required to play them, not to mention the Gnome and Bard as well. Needless to say, for the cost of both books you are getting a great value and adding a huge amount of new material to your OSE games.

I love this cover.
               We will begin with the Druid spell Heat Metal. It is a classic from other editions of D&D, but how does it transfer over to OSE? It is a 2nd Level Druid spell that has a range of 30’, and a duration of seven rounds. It can affect one target per two levels of experience. Thus, out of the gate it can effect a minimum of two targets, which is strong. All the targets metal objects will begin to heat up for the first four rounds, then it slowly decreases in heat for the next three. Over the course of rounds two, three, five, and six the subject will take damage if they refuse to discard all metal objects. The fourth round is key in that targets that refuse to give up their metal objects could possibly suffer the loss of a limb if they fail a save vs spell and they take additional damage. 

               This spell is a good selection, but a gamble as well. You are gambling that something in the near future will be relying on metal. It is a reasonably safe bet, but many monsters rely completely on natural weapons and will immune to these effects. Creatures that do rely on metal are going to be up a creek without a paddle. They will have to make the choice to disarm and/or remove their armor, or just eat the effects. Unless they make the saving throw, they will lose access up to several appendages and possibly be knocked out by the spell. Either case is a boon for the party.
  The next spell is coming from the 2nd half of the book, the Illusionist spells. For this, I chose one of the unique spells from the book, Shadowcast. This is a 5th level spell, adapted from 2nd Edition AD&D, that is used to gather information. It  does not have all the flash/bang of the direct damage spells, but it should not be over looked. The premise of the spell is that you go into a dark room that was recently occupied by someone you want to gather information. The Illusionist lights a candle and the shadows that form on the walls show a recreation of the events 6 +1 per level turns in the past. The events create a shadow play in real time and the party can try to piece out any information they need. The basic spell does not come with sound, but if the Illusionist creates a special candle made with a large monster's earwax and gold leaf runes (200 GP), the images will have sound as well.

  I really like the theme around this spell; it feels very appropriate for the Illusionist and can be very useful for a party. Players and GMs are going to have a lot of fun with this one. If you are a backer, and have not added this book to your BackerKit, you should before the kit closes. If you missed out on the Kickstarter, you will have the option to pre-order this and all the books from the Kickstarter right HERE
              What do you think of the new spells? Are you excited to see more from the two expansion books? Make sure to comment below on things you would like to see, follow the blog for the next four parts, and share with other interested parties. Did you miss Part 1?
               If you are looking for the creators of this great product please check out their website.

EDIT: This article proved to be very popular. I went ahead and created a Facebook group for the blog, if you are interested the link is here

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Traveling in a World of Fire – Desert Survival Rules

               Deserts might be the most inhospitable climates that exist in any world, yet some cultures flourish in or near these environments. In a traditional D&D overland expedition the environment is reflective of the temperate zones of Europe, and thus many of the overland rules assume this kind of a climate. Adjustments, like in life, will be needed when basing a game/campaign in a desert location. Water, beasts of burden, armor, and many other items will have to be taken into account so the setting seems real.

Possibly the harshest environment that the characters can enter.

                Navigation in the desert is extremely difficult, one sand dune tends to look a lot like another. PCs that are not familiar with the terrain, or traveling without a guide will need to roll once per day and on a 1-3 on a d6 they become lost. If your system uses Rangers, and their native terrain is not dessert, the roll becomes 1-2 on a d6. Traveling by night, without an experienced guide, will increase the chance of getting lost to 1-4 on d6. The DM can determine were the characters end up, or a simple random roll. Needless to say, this diversion from their intended will cost the players in supplies, and could lead to starvation, dehydration, or running into a monster.
                Scavenging food in the desert is not impossible, just improbable. Characters attempting to scavenge food in a desert will succeed on the roll of a 1 on d6, and it will produce enough food for d3 people for one day. Scavenging for food will take six turns per roll, and can only be done in daylight. This food is generally good for humanoids, but will not feed a beast of burden or the like. Characters will typically need one gallon of water a day in the desert if travelling by day. Mounts, barring ones suited for desert terrain, typically will need four gallons of water a day if travelling. Character or mounts that are sitting and resting, or traveling at night need half as much water as typically needed. Characters or mounts that are wearing armor heavier that leather will require double the amount of water typically needed. Camels and creatures native to desert climates do not suffer the effects of dehydration until the 8th day without a full allotment of water. Each day that an animal is participating in labor, and does not receive a full allotment of water roll a d10. If the result of the die is equal or less than the number of days without full water, the animal dies.

You need the right tools for the climate.

                If a character does not receive their full allotment of water in a day will start suffering the effects of dehydration. A character that does not receive at least half the amount of water needed in a day will suffer d6 CON loss. A character that does receive at least half the needed water or more in a day(but not a full amount) will suffer a d4 CON loss. This loss in CON comes with all the appropriate effects of any change in CON, including the lowering of a character’s HP. Once a character gets a full allotment of water for the day, the CON loss is restored. If a character reaches zero CON, the character has died due to dehydration. Every day beyond the first that a character does not get at least half the amount of water needed, that character suffers a cumulative -1 penalty to attack and damage rolls do to the weaken state.
                Heat is a major factor in the hot winds of the desert and people need to dress appropriately or suffer the effect of heat exhaustion. Character that wear heavier armors will have penalties to combat due to the extreme temperatures. Characters that are wearing chainmail armor will have a -2, and those with plate mail -4 penalty to all attack rolls. They will also suffer a respective +2 and +4 penalty to attribute checks. Shields that are not specifically designed for the climate will also impose a further -1 penalty to attack rolls and +1 to attribute checks.

Dress for success in the desert.

                The winds and sands can become the enemy of the characters because sand storms are one of the most feared natural phenomenon. The first thing that characters need is to find some form of shelter. Large rocks, clay huts, or even climbing into the guts of a beast can provide the necessary shelter from the storm. Each round that a character is not in a shelter and caught in a storm, they will suffer one point of damage. Characters without some form of protection in the storm will also need to make a saving thrown versus Breath Weapon, or be blinded for 1d6 rounds. If the storm goes on long enough a character can be buried beneath the dunes. The DM needs to determine how deep the character is buried. If you want to randomize roll d10 and that is the depth in feet. Each round the character is buried they need to make a STR and CON check. If the character passes the STR check they can dig 1 foot towards the surface. Characters can also attempt to close the distance from the top by digging down with a STR check. If the character fails the CON check they will suffer 1d4 CON damage as they begin suffocating and getting sand into their lungs. Characters that lose all their CON, will parish. CON will be healed after one turn or rest on the surface. This system is also used in the case of a sand avalanche that ends up burying the characters.

               I am slowly working on more Arabian Fantasy rules for BX/LL/OSE that I am tentatively calling Al-Jadid. Click the link to see the running list of articles.

Friday, June 21, 2019

The Tomb That Annihilated Chult

                I recently finished playing in an eight month campaign of Tomb of Annihilation. This is not my first foray into 5e, as I have played through Curse of Strahd and Into the Abyss over the past few years. I’ve played all of these with the same group of friends, most I have been playing D&D with for the past 30 years. As we went through the campaign I noted several interesting factors about this particular campaign, that make it great and also some areas where it fell flat. I thought I would share some of those today. I believe that I have a unique perspective in that I generally run older versions of (A)D&D and have a tendency to play in 5e campaigns. I believe that the creators were trying to get back to an older style of play, in the classic dungeon delve with this module. Did they succeed? We’ll see.

The demon heads, you have to admire his attention to branding.

My biggest issue with the module is also its greatest asset which is delightfully paradoxical. Chult is a spectacular character. The environment itself is an actual character in the story. This is like other works of fiction, the movie Event Horizon springs to mind or the comic Sin City. Chult is a place that is begging you to explore it and find all the interesting details that come out of it. They drop plentiful amounts of plot threads in the port that will take you all over the country completing all sorts of interesting things…..or so I would be brought to believe. I never got to see 95% of Chult because I played the plotline and did what was called for in the game.

I want to explore all of it.

The premise of the adventure is a ticking clock. Your characters figure out that people around the world are dying do to a mysterious plague and it is your job to stop it as fast as possible because lives are on the line. In our case we were hired by a lovely woman in Waterdeep to rescue her, before the illness overtakes her. We took this call to action very seriously. We focused in on that plot thread with laser precision, and did not let up off that trail. We knew that she did not have much time, and we tracked the number of days it took us in game to complete the quest, it was 43. We plowed through the jungle on a quest to save the world. This means we missed out on the rich tapestry that was Chult. I’m still curious about the pirates, I still want to know about the great Naga, I want to spend more time at the Heart of Ubtao, and most likely countless others we did not hear about or forgot.

Ubtao building Mezro

The biggest dip in excitement for our group was actually getting into the Tomb itself. We were able to navigate it with relative ease (except that damn tile room). The final fight was challenging, but I believe that was because our GM did not allow any form of rest for the final 6+ encounters, but we rationed our abilities well and were about tapped out when the module was tapped out. We managed with a party of three, and some NPCs, to navigate the entire adventure death free. It was certainly the most deadly adventure so far, but far from the meat grinders of yore.
                My advice if you are planning to run this adventure is to slow the ticking clock, or get rid of it entirely. This way your characters have the ability to explore the lands of Chult and see all the cool things that are in this book. Do not let it happen like it did to our party and the only thing the Tomb actually annihilated was Chult itself.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

New Class for Basic D&D - Sahira

Requirements: Minimum CHA 9
Prime requisite: INT
Hit Dice: 1d4
Armor: None
Weapons: Staff, Dagger
Languages: Local Common, Trade Common

Coming from the lands of mystical deserts and high adventure, the Sahira are spellcasters and keepers of great lore. Often associated with the genies, they command great power and are greatly respected in many circles high and low. There are as many tales telling of the generosity of the Sahira as there are tales of their cruelty, only the winds of fate know their true intentions. 

Males are known as Sahir.

Sahira and her Gen


Gens are part of the extended genie family. In the Sahira’s native plane, the gen appears to be about one foot tall genie, and has appearance characteristics associated with one of the four elemental courts of the genies. The Sahira can perform a ritual that requires 24 hours to complete, and costs 1,000 GP multiplied by the number of gens they have had over the course of their entire lifetime. Once the ritual is complete the bond between the Sahira and Gen is complete. They can communicate telepathically as long as they are within 100 feet of each other. They both know if the other is still alive, even if on different planes. It is assumed that a starting Sahira has already completed this ritual. 

Gens are considered to be of Low Intelligence and have AC 6. They have hit points equal to half of the Sahira (round up), and attack with a Thac0 of a monster with half the Hit Dice as the Sahira. The strike with an elemental attack that does 1d6 damage. Gens are immune to damage from their native element.

Gens are not completely altruistic and the arrangement made with the Sahira is supposed to be mutually beneficial. Gens will expect at least 8 hours a day time to recuperate in their native plane, and will expect 20% of the Sahira’s profits in their adventures.  

Spell Theft

Sahira do not cast spells in what is often considered traditional magic. The Sahira have made bargains with the various genies of the elemental courts to gain the use of a special type of familiar. This familiar, a Gen, is able to go into the other planes of existence and “obtain” a spell for their Sahira to use. This spell is often stolen from the mind of a traditional wizard that might be in a different city, land, or even plane. The theft can also come from divine beings of the planes, but at times this can come at a great cost. Stealing from a god-like entity is never a good idea, even in the best of circumstances. Sahira can use all magic items and scrolls like a traditional wizard, but do to the nature of their magic, cannot scribe scrolls. 

In order to cast a spell the Sahira must first tell the Gen what spell they would like. The Sahira must have knowledge of the spell and have personally witnessed the spell. It is assumed that the Sahira starts with knowledge of all 1st and 2nd level spells in the main rule book/s. Once the spell is determined the Gen will disappear into the appropriate plane and attempt to retrieve the spell.

Many people think this is a demon.

If a wizard of equal level to the Sahira could cast the spell it takes 1d6 rounds +1 per level to retrieve the spell. If the wizard could not normally cast the spell at their level, the time then converts into turns. If the spell is extremely esoteric, or divine in nature, it then becomes hours. Once the Gen is sent, it cannot be recalled until the search is over.

The base chance of a Gen being successful is 6 in 10 with the modifiers below. A roll of a 10 always fails. If the base chance is zero or below, the search for the spell will automatically fail. Successfully retrieved spells must be cast in the next 3 turns or the spell is lost. A Sahira can only know one spell at a time.
  • +1 per additional 2 levels of experience of the Sahira
  • -1 per level of the spell desired
  • -3 if the spell is esoteric or dinvine
  • -1 per attempt at the same spell per 24 hours 
Stealing from divine powers often will not go unnoticed. Every time a divine spell is attempted, the GM should roll 1d10, if the score is equal to or less than the level of the spell, the entity has noticed. It is up to the GM to determine which entity, and the reprisal if any. Severity should be determined by the level of the spell sought.

When you make a divine power upset.

Levels 1-2
The Sahira suffers a -1 penalty to all rolls for the next 24 hours. (This includes spell theft rolls)

Level 3
The Sahira suffers the effects of a Curse spell.

Level 4
The divine power sends one of its servants to teach the Sahira a lesson. The entity should be a minimum of 1 Hit Die higher than the Sahira’s level.

Level 5
The Sahira is brought into the presence of the divine power and asked to explain their actions. The GM is encouraged to make the punishment fit the crime.

Elemental Protection

The Sahira gains a +2 bonus to all saving throws versus all attacks of the native elemental of their Gen. This increases to +4 at level 5.

Summon a powerful ally

Summon Genie

At 8th level the Sahira has a 3 in 10 chance to summon a genie.This gain a +1 bonus at level 11 and level 14. This may only be attempted once a week and the ritual lasts one hour. The spell only summons a local genie, it does not assure their help. The Sahira and their companions are expects to show deference to the genie, and the genie will be expecting some form of compensation for their effort. A reaction test would not be out-of-order modified by the terms that are arranged. A summoned genie in this manner will never grant wishes. If the genie agrees to assist it will be for one single task, which lasts no longer then a day and one hour. (25 hours)

Note: This is an adaptation of the Sha'ir class from Al-Qadim in AD&D 2nd Edition.

House Rules

The new school year will be upon us before we know it. This means that I will be starting my new OSR campaign for my students at school. I am planning on using Old School Essentials with some of the expanded content from the two new books. I am also planning on running B2 Keep on the Borderlands as the setting to begin with. I am assuming this will take them most of the year to complete, if they do finish it I will move onto X1 Isle of Dread. The real focus of this article will be to discuss the house rules that I am planning on using in my game. It talking with the community, I don’t think a single person I talk with runs the game straight, so these are mine.

General Rules

  • Stats are 4d6 drop the lowest in order.
  • At first level Hit Point rolls of 1 or 2 can be rerolled.
  • Hit Points are rerolled at each level, minimum 1 hit point increase.
  • Alignment Languages will not be used.
  • Death & Dismemberment is being used.
  • Attempting player facing defense. With 1s being a crit fail for something bad happening, 20 is an extra attack.
  • Healing is with Advantage outside of combat, including potions.



  • If loaded and ready, can fire before combat begins.
  • Must reload
  • All missile weapons can Aim one round, crossbows can aim up to 3.



  • Wizards can Read Magic naturally and does not need to be cast. Does not apply to elves.
  • Wizards get bonus spells based on WIS bonus.
  • Wizards have a 10% chance per level to Identify magic items. (Max 90%)
  • Wizards can use staves.
  • Spell research costs 1,000 GP and two week’s time, per level of spell.
  • Mentors cut the time in half, but twice the cost.
  • Scrolls/Spellbooks cut the time and cost in half.
  • Cannot memorize the same spell twice in one day.
  • B/X Blackrazor’s article Magical Skills (Cantrips).



  • Fighters can specialize in one weapon at level 1 granting a +1/+1 bonus in that weapon.
  • Fighters may use Shields shall be splintered



  • Clerics get bonus spells for WIS.



  • Backstab does not literally have to be a stab in the back, but an attack at an unaware target with any weapon.
  • Thieves Cant is added
  • All Thief Abilities are a Hear Noise Check.


Does not need a spell book, gets spells back at dawn every day.

Learns new spells naturally.

This is a living document that I will update as time goes on. Updated 9/11/2020

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Old School Essentials Genre Books Preview - Part 1

I am writing a five part series that will cover some of the new aspects in the Old School Essentials Kickstarter by Necrotic Gnome. In full disclosure, I was asked to preview the Old SchoolEssentials Advanced Fantasy: Genre Rules and Druid and Illusionist Spellbook. I was asked to give my feedback on the two items and with a particular eye for making the new material feel like a B/X product, while still embracing what is interesting about the new material. For me this was easy work, because the preview material I received was amazingly good, and I was able to offer a few tweaks here and there. In talking with Gavin at Necrotic Gnome, I asked if I could do a series that would share with my audience some of the cool features that are in store for those who get these great products and he graciously agreed.
The hardest part of this is what to share? There is so much goodness crammed into these pages, the choices are plentiful. I think something that I was curious about in the beginning is the new classes, so I will begin with one of those. In the backer updates the Drow, Bard, and Half-Elf have already been shown, so I will not choose one of them. I saw someone talking in the MeWe chat the other day about how a Paladin would be different than a Cleric, so why don't we start with them?

Starting with the requirements box in the upper left corner, the Paladin is somewhat unique in that it is a human character that has multiple prime requisites. It has both STR and WIS, but also has a minimum of 9 in CHA. This means that a character will have to roll an array of decent stats in order to pull off this class. One of the advantages is that if either STR OR WIS is above 13 you get the 5% experience bonus, but in turn, both STR AND Wis have to be above 16 to get the 10% bonus. With the minimum 9 in CHA also, you can probably assume there will be a lot of Paladins getting that 5% bonus, but quite a bit fewer are going to reach that lovely 10% bonus. Other than those changes the rest of the material in that box reads like a Fighter. Paladins can use any weapon, any armor, and can use a shield. They also retain the Fighter’s beefy D8 hit die.
Next, comes some of the classic features of the Paladin from other versions of D&D. Paladins are restricted to a lawful alignment, as one would expect. Paladins have an array of special abilities, which include Divine Magic, Holy Resistance, the ever popular Laying on Hands, and Turn Undead. Paladins begin to have Cleric spells later in their career. They get their first spell at 9th level which means it is a nice addition, but it is not swinging their power by a great degree at that point. Holy Resistance is a great ability, but one that is often forgotten by players and GMs alike. I have played in many a game were the player remembers several minutes after the fact that they are immune to disease, and nothing will turn a GMs smile upside down than thinking they infected a player, only to have the player remind them they are a Paladin. While Laying on Hands is not huge in the amount of hit points it provides, it is flexible in that the Paladin can dole out the hit points as needed. They can cure those nasty diseases once per week staring at 5th level. The Turn Undead feature works exactly like the Cleric’s ability, except that the Paladin Turns creatures as if lower level. Having a 2nd person in the party that can Turn Undead will be very useful for any group.

One of my favorite classic D&D pieces of art

Like most classes the Paladin upon reaching 9th level can establish a fortification with the slight caveat that they must obtain the permission of whatever holy order they serve. This can lead to some interesting in-game ramifications, especially if the holy order has its own agenda. The Paladin retains the classic tithe feature in that they must donate 10% of their income to a Lawful religious institution, and they may only have a restricted number of magical armaments. This restriction should not be ignored, as it will affect the player very little in the beginning of a campaign, but quite a bit more as time transpires.
The Paladin upon reaching 4th level can receive a high quality warhorse. I would suggest that this be a campaign feature, and not have it just appear out of thin air. Maybe the Paladin and companions have to complete a quest to find this amazing steed. They could hear about a holy charger that has been captured by Bugbears and must hatch a plan to rescue it. The warhorse then becomes a character unto itself. It is also not a disposable ally, because once it dies, another cannot be obtained for 10 years.
Now we will compare the Paladin’s Level Progression to a Fighter is see the differences. The Fighter and the Paladin’s hit dice and Thac0 progress at the exact same rate, the big difference is that for all the special abilities that a Paladin receives, they must gain an additional 750 XP to get to 2nd Level. This becomes an exponential increase as time progresses, and a Fighter will hit 14th level before a Paladin finishes 12th level. One thing that people might not notice at first glance is that Paladins have a 2 lower on all their saving throws compared to the Fighter. This is not putting them in the overall range of Halflings and Dwarves, but they are not that far off in several categories either.
To me the class feels just right, it pulls several of the classic tropes from the AD&D world that many of us know, but condenses the material to make it feel like a B/X class. This will seamlessly blend into the parties of the classic classes from B/X, without feeling overpowered.  While the Paladin has several advantages, it has a balancing complement of disadvantages as well. You will have several impressive abilities, but that level climb is quite high, with restrictions on magical gear, wealth, and alignment. Players and GMs are going to have a lot of fun with this one. If you are a backer, and have not added this book to your BackerKit, you should before the kit closes. If you missed out on the Kickstarter, you will have the option to pre-order this and all the books from the Kickstarter right HERE.

This is going to be an excellent product.

What do you think of the class? Are you excited to see more from the two expansion books? Make sure to comment below on things you would like to see, follow the blog for the next four parts, and share with other interested parties.

If you are looking for the creators of this great product please check out their website.

EDIT: This article proved to be very popular. I went ahead and created a Facebook group for the blog, if you are interested the link is here

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Death Saves

If you haven’t checked out Death Saves apparel and you are into D&D and/or Metal, you are missing out.  My wife got me one of their amazing shirts for Father’s Day and I couldn’t be happier. I’ll admit they are a little on the costlier side then I generally would like, but damn are they cool. Take a look at this bad boy.

Front Side

Back Side

My picture quality isn't the best, here are some of product pictures below.

The company was started by D&D player/actor Joe Manganiello who has an amazing D&D basement in his house.

They also have all sorts of patches, cell phone cases, and stickers. If you haven’t go check them.

Monday, June 17, 2019

A War Over Battles

Mass combats tend to be a sticking point for most table top games. A percentage of people want the gritty detail and moving the units around the board, but many others find this level of detail boring. I love wargaming, but I do not want it mixed in with my role-playing games. I am more concerned with what the characters are doing in the battle and how they are making a difference. I think the Battle of Helms Deep in the LotR movie is a great example of how a battle can go. The battle is happening, and we get a glimpse of it from a macro view, but most of the time it is the heroes trying to handle different situations that are arising in the battle. This is what I am trying to recreate with these rules; something quick and easy for the GM and players to use and which creates a type of narrative for the battle. 
RPG's roots is a wargame.

Battle Rules

      First, we need to determine the overall tide of battle and how the armies as a whole are operating. Much of this is going to be GM’s fiat, but I find that a simple roll with a few modifiers would do in this circumstance. We will roll a check each Battle Turn, which, for our purposes, is 30 minutes of combat. Each side in the battle rolls a D20 and adds any of the applicable modifiers from below. The side with the highest total scores a Victory Point. At that point, a Push/Pull mechanic ensues. Each side is trying to accumulate three Victory Points to achieve a Total Victory in the battle. If the losing side scores a Victory Point, it first removes points from the opposition, before gaining its own Victory Points. In the case of a tied number, no points are scored by either side.

·         +2 Currently Winning the Battle (Has the most Victory Points)
·         +1 Won the Last Battle Round
·         +1 Larger Forces
·         -3 to +3 Army Leader’s Competency (DM determined)
·         +1 to +3 for Superior Magical Ability
·         +1 to +3 for Superior Troops
·         +1 to +3 for Superior Equipment
·         +1 for each Fortified Position or Terrain Piece
·         +1 for Defeating an Enemy Champion in previous Battle Turn
·         -1 allied Champion refused a FIGHT
·         -5 Commander Killed
·         DM’s Discretion for any other factor

Note: If one side’s battle roll is 10 more than the opponent, two Victory Points are scored.

Example: Army A has two Victory Points and is one Victory Point away from a Total Victory. Army B is currently losing quite badly. Both armies total their modifiers for the round and roll a D20. Army A, with modifiers, rolls a 15, while Army B, with modifiers, scores a 17. This now changes the Victory Points. Army A has 1 Victory Point, and Army B is still losing, but they have pulled themselves back from the edge of Total Victory. Army A now needs to win two more rounds in a row to win, and Army B needs to win 4 more rounds in a row to win. 

Optional Rules

The Curve - Some might find the randomness of a D20 too much for their taste. I might recommend using the same modifiers, but rolling 3D6 instead. This should give more of a Bell Curve result, and less variation.

Overwhelming Forces – If an army is more than double the numbers of an opposing force, roll 2D20 and take the best result for the Battle Roll. If using the optional rule, The Curve, roll 4D6 and take the best three numbers.

Variable Morale – Using the first to 3 Victory Point rule is good for a standard battle, but different army's morale/training can vary. You can have a harden force of knights defending their final keep, or you can have an unruly mob of goblins and kobolds that are as likely to fight themselves as the enemy. To reflect this, you can set different break points for the armies. The knights might fight until the enemy gets four Victory Points, maybe even five. The hoard army might break after just one or two victory points against them. This is as always up to GMs discretion.

An attempt at mass battle rules.

Characters in Battle

This is what most players want to know about in a battle: what is my character doing? I have modified an older Legend of the Five Rings Battle System to be reasonably system neutral. It will allow each character, or small groups of characters to act on the battlefield, make a reputation for themselves, and possibly help sway the battle. I am hoping the combined two systems will make something that is both satisfying for the players and GM and reasonably quick to complete.
Refer to the Character Battle Chart (below) when examining these rules. Each Battle Turn a player, or group of players, decides how engaged they will be. They will have 5 options Reserves, Disengaged, Engaged, Heavily Engaged, or Retire from the Field. Depending on how well the character’s army is performing, and their engagement status, will determine the row that will be rolled on. The character will then roll a D20 and add his Base Attack Bonus (Do not include pluses for weapons or any attribute) this will determine the row that the character is on this Battle Turn. Where the row and column meet is the result for that character. This can also be done as a group. Each player will roll and take the best result, but for each additional character, shift the row down one step. The more people in a group, the more likely people will take damage, and the less Reputation to go around. When looking at the result, you have how much damage your character takes from the fight, calculated in dice. You also have how much reputation is earned for their actions on the field. Lastly, you could hit a special event, FIGHT or Heroic Gambit, which is expanded upon below. Players may resolve their rolls in any order they choose.

Optional Rule 

Wizard/Arcane Spellcasters -  Characters may expend a spell slot to add the level of the spell to their Base Attack Bonus for the Battle Turn. Dropping Fireballs on the battlefield is helpful, but it also attracts a lot of attention.

Damage and Reputation

The damage is purposely vague so that the GM can determine what is best for their game. If you are using low level characters, you might want to use a d4, higher level characters possibly a d8 or even a d10. Armor should be taken into account. I advise, if using an Ascending Armor Class System, each point above 10 should reduce the damage by 1 point. If using a Descending Armor Class System, each point below 9 should reduce the damage by 1 point. Damage can never be reduced below 1 point of damage. In a battle, you are going to get fatigued and banged up. Groups of characters suffer full damage dice to each character in the group. At the start of any round, a character may choose to Retire from the Field, which effectively removes them from the rest of the battle.
Reputation is there for the GMs to use as a measure of the people in both armies seeing the actions of the players. If the characters roll a space that does not have a special event, have the player/s tell you what they are doing to earn that reputation. If the character lands on a space that has a special event, the reputation should be tied to that event. Reputation does not have a tangible mechanic tied to it, but I would encourage the GM to award special accommodations from the General of the Army, or maybe the king themselves for large amounts of reputation earned on the battlefield. You could tie some form of XP to the reputation for the battle, maybe 10 – 50 XP per point depending on the experience curve of your game. Reputation in a battle may never go below zero. If a group of characters gains Reputation, the Reputation is split among them, with remainders dropping off. If a character chooses to Retire from the Field, they lose half the Reputation they gained in the battle and the GM can rule that this causes a dip in morale. This should be especially true with characters that have already gained high levels of Reputation in the battle as their leaving will be noticed.

Another attempt at creating mass battle rules.

Special Events

                FIGHT occurs when two or more champions from both sides of the battle find each other and clash. The GM is encouraged to come up with a few champions for the battle before the session. These champions should range in ability and class, and could even be war machines or monsters. The player characters may turn down the FIGHT, but it will result in a -1 on the Battle Roll next round. The character/s will lose all Reputation gained up to that point, and is forced to Reserves the following Battle Round. I cannot stress enough that these should be quick engagement. If you are breaking out the battle mat, you might be taking it too far. It seems thematically interesting to have like type FIGHT like type. An example of what I mean is a Wizard Duel, or two Rival Clerics squaring off in a battle to see whose god is mightier. If the characters are acting in a group, the GM can have multiple combatants, or one larger combatant versus the group. XP and items should be awarded to the characters for defeating the enemy champions.
                Heroic Gambits are interesting things that happen on the battlefield that give the players a moment to shine. Each will have its own premise, and outcome. All are optional and characters can refuse to attempt them. Below I have given some examples for the GM to pick from, but feel free to make up your own that fit your scenario, genre, and gaming group. Many of these are easily re-skinned into any RPG.

The Banner Has Fallen
Your character has the opportunity to pick up the fallen war banner. While he has the banner he gets +1 reputation each turn, but has a -1 to his Character Battle Chart roll each turn.

Come With Me
The Army’s commander has lost/separated from their honor guard. They want your character to join them in the battle. While you are with the commander, they (GM) gets to determine your level of engagement. You will receive a +1 Reputation each Battle Round you are with them, and other possible in game rewards.

Have Our Battle In The Shade
Enemy arrows are blotting out the sun and the character has found a route deep into enemy lines to strike at the archers. It is a highly dangerous opportunity. If the characters choose to attack the archers, they suffer double dice damage this round, but receive double the Reputation for fighting all the way to the archers. The next round, the character is automatically Highly Engaged. If still alive at the end of that round, the archers are defeated and the enemy has a permanent -1 on the Battle Roll.

An opening in the lines has revealed a route to an enemy spellcaster. Removing the spellcaster would be a great boon for the character’s army. If the character chooses to attack the spellcaster, have them make an appropriate saving throw, or take triple damage dice that round, making it to the spellcaster but gain double the Reputation. The next round they are automatically Highly Engaged, an if still alive at the end of that turn the enemy has a permanent -1 to the Battle Roll, and the character/s gain a magic item.

Here And No Further
The character is ordered to hold this position, the character may not change your Engagement at the start of next turn. Roll a Basic Attack Bonus roll on a 15+ add two additional Reputation, 20+ add four additional Reputation, 25+ add six additional Reputation.

Break On Through To The Other Side
Your character is ordered to break through the enemy lines. Next round the character has -3 to his Character Battle Chart, but gains three additional Reputation.

The Perfect Shot
The character has a perfect shot at an enemy champion. Provided the character has a ranged weapon, allow them to make a ranged attack. If successful, count it as defeating an enemy champion.

Lure The Hoard
The character has been given an order to pull the enemy line out of position in order to make a gap. Next round your character is considered to be Heavily Engaged and gains two additional Reputation.

A Savior Unto Thee
Your character sees an ally fall on the battlefield and you manage to make it to them. No matter how grievous an injury, the character manages to stabilize the ally. For the next two rounds the character is considered Heavily Engaged as they battle their way with the ally back behind friendly lines. The character receives an additional two Reputation each Battle Turn, and the GM is encouraged to reward the character for their effort.

Help In The Unlikeliest Place
Your character sees a wounded enemy calling out for help. The character can choose to ignore the plea, and will not suffer for it. If the character chooses to help, follow the rules above, except no additional Reputation is gained. At the end of the battle it is encourage that the GM reward the player with a new retainer with increased loyalty.

Where’s Sarge?
Your character is now the highest ranking person in his area. The character gains 1D3+2 warriors to lead for the rest of the battle. While these warriors are alive and with the character, they gain 1 extra Reputation per Battle Turn.

Battle Fury
The character is struck with a rush of energy from the battle. They can choose to heal two damage dice of damage or have a +2 to the next Character Battle Chart roll.

Magical Gift
An allied spellcaster has cast a beneficial spell on the character. The GM will determine the effects.

Capture The Flag
Your character sees an opportunity to capture the enemy’s battle standard. Once your character has the banner they may only move one step towards the reserves every turn. This draws plenty of enemy attention and your character is at a -4 to their Character Battle Chart Roll until the banner is secured in the allied reserves. Each turn you spend with the banner you gain three additional Reputation, upon getting the standard into reserves it counts the next round as a champion defeated for the enemy.

That Was Close
An ally of the character moves them out of the way to avoid damage. For this round the character does not suffer damage dice. The character possibly owes a favor to the ally in the future.

Support The Engineers
Your character has been asked to defend a group of military engineers trying to fortify a forward position. Your character cannot change his engagement status for the next two Battle Turns, and you must subtract -1 from the Character Battle Chart. If the character is alive at the end of two Battle Turns, your side gains a Fortified Position Advantage.

Your character is needed to escort a unit of sappers to an enemy fortification. Your character cannot change his engagement status for the next two Battle Turns, and you must subtract -1 from the Character Battle Chart. If the character is alive at the end of two Battle Turns, your enemy loses a Fortified Position Advantage.

Be Prepared to Dig Two Graves
Your character sees an ally cut down by a champion from the enemy army. The ally has no chance to be saved, but your character can seek revenge. The character may spend the rest of the entire battle seeking revenge. At the end of each Battle Turn, your character may choose to move horizontally or vertically on the Character Battle Chart to an entry that has a FIGHT in order to defeat the champion.

An Army Which Carries The Ark Before It Is Invincible (Cleric/Divine Only)
Your character has a relic of their faith, and is escorting it to the Battlefield. As long as the character is on the field with the relic, they must be Engaged or Heavily Engaged. While on the field the relic inspires the character’s allies and there morale increases, thus it will take one additional Victory Point to defeat the army. In a standard battle this will be four victory points. While the relic is on the battlefield, it is the target of enemy aggression and the character/s must roll their Character Battle Roll at a -3 penalty. The character can at the start of any Battle Turn move into reserves and safely store the relic away, and all associated bonuses are removed. If the character dies/goes down, the enemy recovers the relic, and the associated bonus is removed from the allies and granted to the opponents. A character completing this action gets an additional Reputation each Battle Turn. If the character loses the relic, the character loses all Reputation and cannot gain any until the relic is recovered. This Gambit can only be attempted once per battle.

I Aim To Misbehave (Thief/Rouge Only)
The character comes up with a plan that is so unusual, it just might work. Or it could completely blow up in their face. The character rounds up a group of Special Forces and disappears into the chaos of the battle. The character will not participate in the next Battle Roll as they are sneaking and getting into the perfect position. The following round they are automatically considered Heavily Engaged. The character will then roll a D8 and get a result. The GM will roll a D3, and subtract that from the result. If the number is positive, the plan went off and that number is added to the Battle Roll next turn. If the result is negative, the plan went south and the number is subtracted from the Battle Roll next turn. This Gambit can only be attempted once per battle. If multiple Thief/Rouges attempt the mission, roll multiple D8s and take the best result. There is no additional Reputation, because the characters are so stealthy they were unnoticed.

Cut The Head From The Serpent
The enemy general is exposed and your character has an opportunity to rush in and attack. This choice should be reserved for at least several Turns into the battle. The general will be guarded by his honor guard, and the GM is encouraged to create an appropriate level challenge for this combat. If the character/s win, the enemy army suffers a permanent -5 to Battle Rolls, the character's allied army immediately earn one Victory Point, and the character gets triple the Reputation.

These rules owe a lot to this book.

I hope people try these rules and that they work out well. Thanks for reading and if you liked this please remember to follow and share.

If you are interested in Legends of the Five Rings click HERE.

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