zondag 18 juni 2017

Henchmen and hirelings

For when you need that extra bit of skill, hit points or just an extra hand to hold a torch. Just keep the gold coming their way.

I think that in 20+ years of roleplaying, I've never seen someone hire a retainer. Our only NPCs were foisted on the group by the DM. Just in case my guys want to hire some help they feel they can trust, here's a quicky blog on hired help. Stuff is written for 5E.

Update: now with table of sample hirelings!

Henchmen - trainee PCs

Henchmen are leveled NPCs who join the group as junior partners. They are run by the player who employs them, with DM fiat. Henchmen will join the front line or even test trapped corridors, but only if their employer will step up to the same danger now and then. A player can designate a henchman as their heir, in which case they can step up in case their PC kicks the bucket.
  • any reasonable class; abilities are all 10 to keep things simple
  • join the party for a half share in gold and xp, will level up
  • come with the clothes on their back; party must provide any necessary gear
  • party is expected to pay 50 gp to a deceased mercenary's family, village or guild or have trouble attracting new hirelings in the future.

Mercenaries - hit points for hire

Sure, playing a group consisting only of wizards sounded awesome, but who's going to pull frontline duty while you squishies lob eldritch horror at your enemies? Mercenaries covers swordsmen, spear carriers or crossbowmen for hire. Mercenaries will take frontline duty as ordered, but will refuse to be the party's pack mules or guinea pigs to check out wobbly flagstones.
  • serve the party for a daily fee, 3-5 sp/day per level
  • do not take a share in gold or xp, will not level up
  • use the warrior NPC class with 10 for all abilities
  • more capable mercenaries command a higher fee
  • have their own equipment
  • the party is expected to pay 50 gp to a deceased mercenary's family, village or guild or have trouble attracting new hirelings in the future.

Warrior NPC class and sample mercenaries



Level
HD / HP
Proficiency
Fee (normal  / hazard)
Special
1
1d8 / 8
2
3-5 sp
Fighting style
2
2d8 / 12
2
lvl 1 x2

3
3d8 / 16
2
lvl 1 x3

4
4d8 / 20
2
lvl 1 x4
Ability score / feat
5
5d8 / 24
3
lvl 1 x5

6
6d8 / 28
3
lvl 1 x6
Extra attack
7
7d8 / 32
3
lvl 1 x7

8
8d8 / 36
3
lvl 1 x8
Ability score / feat
9
9d8 / 40
4
lvl 1 x9

10
10d8 / 44
4
lvl 1 x10
Ability score / feat


Fighting styles: as fighter
Ability score / feat: either pick a feat, or add +2 to an ability
Extra attack: can make one extra weapon attack when taking the Attack action
Proficient in all weapons, light & medium armor
Saves: strength and constitution
Skills: pick three from animal handling, athletics, insight, intimidation, perception and survival

Sample mercenaries: level 1


Crossbowman
3 sp/day of employment; rises to 3 gp/day hazard pay
Chain shirt AC 13, hp 8, Crossbow +4 1d10; shortsword +2 1d6
Archery style. Skills: athletics, perception, survival
Level up: favors dexterity - feats: alert, crossbow expert, sharpshooter, tough

Halberdier
4 sp/day of employment; rises to 4 gp/day hazard pay
Scale mail AC 15, hp 8, Halberd +2 1d10, reach
Defense style. Skills: athletics, insight, intimidation
Level up: favors strength - feats: mobile, polearm master, sentinel, tough

Brute
3 sp/day of employment; rises to 3 gp/day hazard pay
Scale mail AC 14, hp 8, Greatsword +2 2d6; reroll 1 or 2 on attack roll
Great weapon style. Skills: athletics, intimidation, survival
Level up: favors strength - feats: dash, great weapon master, savage attacker, tough

Shieldbearer
5 sp/day of employment; rises to 5 gp/day hazard pay
Scale mail / shield AC 16, hp 8, Longsword +2 1d8Protection style. Skills: insight, insight, perception
Can impose disadvantage on melee attack against an ally w/i 5ft
Level up: favors constitution - feats: alert, heavily armored, heavy armor master, shield master

Servants - odd jobsmen

For when you need more than brawn, servants include unskilled porters and torchbearers, and skilled locksmiths, scribes or other experts. They will not fight except to protect their lives. Some will serve as the party's pack mules, others as guinea pigs to check out wobbly flagstones.
  • serve the party for a daily fee, 1-5 sp/day per level
  • do not take a share in gold or xp, will not level up
  • use the expert NPC class with 10 for all abilities
  • more capable servants command a higher fee
  • have their own equipment
  • the party is expected to pay 5 gp to a deceased mercenary's family, village or guild or have trouble attracting new hirelings in the future.

Expert NPC class and sample servants


Level
HD / HP
Proficiency
Fee (normal / hazard)
Special
1
1d6 /6
2
1-5 sp
Skill bonus
2
2d6 /9
2
lvl 1 x2

3
3d6 /12
2
lvl 1 x3
Jack of all trades
4
4d6 /15
2
lvl 1 x4
Ability score / feat
5
5d6 / 18
3
lvl 1 x5

6
6d6 / 21
3
lvl 1 x6
Expertise
7
7d6 / 24
3
lvl 1 x7

8
8d6 / 27
3
lvl 1 x8
Ability score / feat
9
9d6 / 30
4
lvl 1 x9

10
10d6 / 33
4
lvl 1 x10
Expertise

Skill bonus: skilled laborers have +2 to one skill
Jack of all trades: add half your proficiency bonus (round down) to any skills you're not proficient in
Expertise: pick two skills you're proficient in; add double your proficiency bonus. At level 10, pick one more skills to gain expertise in.
Ability score / feat: as PC classes
Extra attack: can make one extra weapon attack when taking the Attack action
Proficient in simple weapons, light armor
Saves: strength or dexterity, and wisdom or intelligence
Skills: pick any three

Sample servants: level 1


Porter
1 sp/day of employment; rises to 1 gp/day hazard pay
Leather armor AC 11, hp 6
Skills: Athletics +2, animal handling, survival
Level up: favors strength - feats: athlete, lucky, resilient

Torchbearer
2 sp/day of employment; rises to 1 gp/day hazard pay
Leather armor + shield AC 13, hp 6, torch +0 1d4+1 fire
Skills: Athletics +2, religion, perception
Level up: favors dexterity - feats: alert, tavern brawler (proficiency with torch!)

Sage
4 sp/day of employment; rises to 4 gp/day hazard pay
Padded armor AC 11, hp 6
Skills: One intelligence skill +2, two other intelligence skills
Level up: favors intelligence - feats: keen mind, linguist, magic intiate, ritual caster

Battlefield healer
3 sp/day of employment; rises to 2 gp/day hazard pay
Studded leather armor AC 13, hp 6
Skills: Medicine +2, persuasion, survival
Can heal up to 4 hp/level each day, spread out over multiple recipients
Level up: favors wisdom - feats: healer, magic initiate

Locksmith
3 sp/day of employment; rises to 3 gp/day hazard pay
Leather armor + shield AC 13, hp 6
Skills: Lockpick/disable trap +2, sleight of hand, perception
Level up: favors dexterity - feats: dungeon delver, resilient

Scout
5 sp/day of employment; rises to 5 gp/day hazard pay
Leather armor AC 11, hp 6, shortbow +2 1d6; dagger +2 1d4
Skills: Stealth +2, athletics, perception
Level up: favors dexterity - feats: alert, observant, skulker

zaterdag 17 juni 2017

Grow back your spleen in 24 hours!

Heal back all your hit points in one night's sleep? Modding the healing rules and saying "sod it" in the end.

Want to know the real rule? The actual healing rule? The rule that'll drive my campaign from now on? Skip right to the end. Of course you'll miss out on the soul searching that got me there, but if you're all tl;dr, go right ahead.

Just a flesh wound.
For those not afraid of reading, consider this likely scenario.

Questing has happened. The prince is safely locked into his iron mask again, occult megafauna have been scrapped for parts, and your heroes are back home. Minus half their teeth, 75% of skin, a spleen and a couple of fingers. Are they down for the count? Are they fuck! In 5E, a good night's sleep is enough to cure all your hit points.

This, let us say, pops my rosy little bubble of disbelief.

Before you hordes of commenters cry out that Hit Points Are Not Getting Hit Points, I know, I know. They represent all the effort you make to avoid the worst of a blow, etc. I just think that even a fit adventurer would be hard pressed to exhaust themselves on a daily basis and recuperate in a long rest. I happen to like the rest mechanic but I want to mod it a bit.

Standard rules for a short & long rest

This being D&D, everything's connected to everything. Resting doesn't only get you back hit points, but also use of abilities such as rage or spells. I'm not about to overhaul the entire game here, so let's see what we can play with. Here's the rules-as-written:

Short rest, 1 hour:
"A character can spend one or more Hit Dice at the end of a short rest. Maximum number of Hit Dice is equal to the character’s level. For each Hit Die spent in this way, the player rolls the die and adds the character’s Constitution modifier to it. The character regains hit points equal to the total." (So a wizard3 with Con 12 can roll up to 3x 1d6+1 before he's out of hit dice.

Long rest, 8 hours:
"At the end of a long rest, a character regains all lost hit points. The character also regains spent Hit Dice, up to a number of dice equal to half of the character’s total number of them (minimum of one die)."
Summary: he'll feel better after a nap.

Solution one: quarter him!

Let's try to mend this quickly and say that a character regains only 1/5th of all lost hit points during a long rest. Does that sound better? On the surface, that sure slows your healing, but in effect, it still only takes two days of not getting murderified to regain all your hit points. Day one, you heal 1/5th hp, use all your hit dice and regain anywhere up to full hp from those, and on the second day you spend some more hit dice to heal up the rest. Bob the Barbarian feels right as rain, two days after being used as a dragon's chew toy.

No, not like...nevermind, nothing a good night's sleep won't fix.

Solution two: short rest, long rest, bed rest

New idea: short rest stays as-is. Long rest refreshes use of powers and 1/2 of your hit dice as usual; no free healing. I'll add the new category of bed rest, which is a lame-ass title but will do for now. A period of bed rest lasts for a week and gets you back all your hit points, hit dice and expended powers.

Still begs the question: why would you ever need a bed rest? Two days of short/long resting will get you back all that anyway. Good one.

Extra ingredient to solution two: exhaustion

After this, I need a vacation.

What's to stop a party from pressing on day after adventuring day? They'll be good for hit points and powers anyway. So let's tack on the exhaustion condition from the PHB appendix. Adventurers can soldier on for a number of hard working adventuring days equal to their Con-bonus+Proficiency bonus. After that, they get one level of exhaustion per extra working day. And of course this doesn't go away to the tune of 1 exhaustion level per long rest; you need bed rest for that.

Five days to remove one level of exhaustion? Maybe that's a bit much. I could fiddle around with the length of a bed rest, or say that you just need one full day of resting to remove one level of exhaustion. Here is the rule on exhaustion, by the way; nice, clean piece of work!
Exhaustion is measured in six levels. An effect can give a creature one or more levels of exhaustion, as specified in the effect’s description. If an already exhausted creature suffers another effect that causes exhaustion, its current level of exhaustion increases by the amount specified in the effect’s description. A creature suffers the effect of its current level of exhaustion as well as all lower levels.

Level / Effect
1 Disadvantage on ability checks
2 Speed halved
3 Disadvantage on attack rolls and saving throws
4 Hit point maximum halved
5 Speed reduced to 0
6 Death

Final verdict: hell with this

To be honest, if I have to choose between realism and awesome-up-your-players, my money is on the bunch of murderhobos that kill Bullette with their teeth and overclocked cantrips. Realism can go cry in the corner.

Sure, I'll remove "heal all hit points after a long rest", I'll use the exhaustion rule when I remember and feel like it, but tracking how many working days the players have gone without a proper bed rest feels like too much hassle. Punch clock heroism isn't my style; ideally my players get to feel that their characters are bad-asses, not a bunch of athletes who have to monitor every aspect of their physical well-being with a careful training regimen. Thus we end up with this loose-fast rule:

Short rest: heal by expending hit dice; regain use of some abilities
Long rest: recover 1/2 of expended hit dice; regain use of some abilities
Pushing it: eat a level of exhaustion for when you've been fighting hard day after day after day. Take a day or two to recuperate and have at it again. The Halfling Horde doesn't lounge in the spa getting its nails did, neither should you.

Fine, have a quiet day at the local inn.

Doodling

Bought a sketchbook and fineliners to churn out gameable maps in my downtime. Who knew doodling RPG maps could be so relaxing?


If I'm going to post my maps here, I better make sure they look less crap. So with many thanks to Dyson for great mapping tutorials, contrast and compare:

Doodle doodle doodle.

...and this cave dwelling:

To a map of the surrounding area in my usual style:

zaterdag 10 juni 2017

Eberron s1e1: Those who forget the lessons of the past are doomed to get stabbed in the face

One short session in, the players are now in the posession of a priceless Hobgoblin artifact. With Joesky tax at the end to make up for the session report.


After rolling up characters the hard way (3d6 in order), the players picked their way through DnD 5e's races, backgrounds and finally classes. Including time spent to go over the map of Eberron, highlight different countries and discuss their share history and flesh out motivations, this took some 90 minutes.

Roll call

  • Falco, Human wizard 1 out of Karrnath, former acolyte of the Church of Vol, looking to become a freelancer of the Finder's Guild. Ultimately: in search of immortality. If he doesn't die first of being crushed by falling trap doors.
  • Merrick, (Lightfoot) Halfling rogue 1 out of the Talenta Plains, an outlander guide and merchant who helps visitors find their way and interact with the local tribes - when not wildly misjudging maps or ignoring burial and danger markers.
  • Rathan, (Stout) Halfling ranger 1 out of the Talenta Plains, an outlander warrior searching far and wide for news about his disgraced, outcast family member (who at this point has neither name nor background).
(Short note for my players: noone in the party has taken the History skill, and I tend to add lots of historical hints to sites. I will happily describe old rock carvings or tapestries, but you might miss out on nuances. Never necessary, might be useful. Up to you to make do, retrain, or hire a historian to tag along.)

Session report: apply now and become a henchman

There's been no carousing yet to spread the group's exploits far and wide, so this will have to be a short and skinny version of the first session:

"I need you as experts on local customs and history" sounds so much better than "you can soak up trap damage and hold a lantern while I go exploring".


  • Players accepted a job as henchmen for Hedrak, a scholar from Morgrave U. Only less scholar, more flunked student looking to make a name.
  • Lead: map of 9000 years old Dhakaani goblinoid ruins near Gatherhold, Talenta Plains. Mysterious note on this map is to look for the thirteenth of twelve. No clue how Hedrak got hold of this map.
  • Set out with two goblin porters, Bugduff and Vrotmort (latter is a history nerd and nuts about the glorious old days).
  • Ruins: in a sandstone mass a few days out of Gatherhold, near a Halfling burial site and a nest of Glidewing dinos. Both avoided. Smart choice, although there might be interesting loot in the refuse from the nest. The wind is making weird, low noises.
  • Quick look around shows the remains of a small Dhakaani village in twelve separate rock dwellings. In one of the rooms, a natural tunnel winds its way (deeeep) underground. Maybe that's where the nightly voices come from? (Stupid random encounter rolls mean the party manages to stay blissfully unaware of other goings-on at the site.)
  • Poking around finds the group a hidden thirteenth cave. It contains a table for six, five sober monk cells, and a library of sorts with two hobgoblins buried standing in their armor together with enormous weapons out of purple-grey metal.
  • Carvings in the walls shows ancient Dhakaani heroes losing a couple of battles to monstrous legions and finally fleeing in disgrace. The two goblin porters start to become pretty agitated.
  • The party finds a secret room (almost killing Falco when the stone door slips off its 9000 year old hinges). In it, a dessicated hobgoblin woman's corpse holding a three foot horn. Ghostly voice in ancient goblin welcomes the two porters when they step inside. The pair claim the artifact for themselves and turn on the party.
  • Some stabbage, calls for truce, more stabbage and magic missiles later, the gobins are knocked out and the players are left holding a relic of the ancient hobgoblin empire. Now where to sell it?

Behold my megadungon.

Joesky tax

To speed up shopping, the party as a whole has the option to put aside money for their go bag. Whenever someone needs a common item that is not on their inventory sheet yet, they can decide it was in the go bag all along. Write down the item on the inventory sheet, deduct its price from the go bag's total value. Final say to the DM whether the group actually went and bought a masterwork pipe organ to woo the sweet harpy ladies with.

Of course the group happily nodded along while I explained this and promptly forgot to prep a go bag. Don't look at me when you're asking each other who forgot to pack the rope.