Thursday, April 4, 2019

5E Hack: Class Templates Part 5

Welcome back to my attempt to hack 5e character creation into something fast and rollable.  Collected for your consideration are all the templates. A minor change I've made places the simplest template in the number 1 spot. If you need a character fast the first template should fulfill the role of that character without much fuss. The previous template tables will be updated to reflect this.

The Final Product

I have at this point finished the first playtesting ready drafts of the 5e class templates. Here they are!

 These are going to be playtested in my upcoming 5e campaign mid-April and I'm very excited to check the results. Let me know of your favorites or if there are any you'd like me to review for content. This has been my first real RPG design project and I'm looking forward to many more in the future.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Running Mothership (for the first time)

Following my descent into games very different from D&D 5e, I ran my first game of Mothership recently. Mothership is this, the rules are free and the starting module Dead Planet is chock full of cool dm facing content. In short, it's a sci-fi horror ttrpg that plays off classic sci-fi horror movie tropes.

The crew consisted of 4 players filling each role that the game provides. They were Lilith (a stressed out shovel-wielding teamster), Jack (the sweet country boy marine), Wesley (a young scientist, definitely not Wesley Crusher), and Coru (an android with memory problems who has the quirk of taking written notes). They were the final survivors on an archeological ship named The Alexis.
Please check it out at

The Session

They woke up in the cryopod room to a confused and memory wiped Coru and began to slowly piece things together. They scavenging for supplies, killed alien bugs, tried to get to the command center, and figure out a means of escape.

The ship alternated between a base state (43 minutes) and a spookyfied eldrich interference state (13 minutes where corpses twitch, tentacles drift out of the vents, and androids shut down and reset).
While in the normal version of the ship this played and while in the spooky version of the ship this played. There was also a tall lanky telekinetic monster chasing the party during the spooky interference. It screamed an awful scream like this.

The end result was a tense race to solve a couple mysteries:
What happened to the crew?
Why is the ship going spooky?
Where tf are we?
How do we escape the Alexis?

They managed through aggressively decompressing the cargo hold to escape and jump onto a passing abandoned ship near their own (they were stranded, unable to make a jump to faster than light travel). While the other ship was being prepared to evac the last remaining members, the party members that remained behind fought off the telekinetic monster. The end result was everyone hurt, the scientist and marine were left panicking but just barely managed to make it onto the other ship.

The session ended with the party trying to take the other ship to the dead planet's moon and hopefully fix the jump drive dead zone in the process.

There's really evocative art for aliens like this by Stephen Wilson & Sean Mccoy inside DEAD PLANET

The Feedback

My players really enjoyed how quickly things could spiral out of control and how easy it was to play into their class tropes. There was initial resistance to switching to a roll under system but once I walked them through the character creation they began to enjoy the new system. Combat ran smoothly and they managed to repel the big monster pretty effectively. The setting of suspense and the descriptions of monsters were of particular praise. I personally loved the spooky tone and the sci-fi setting and can't wait to run more one-shots of Mothership in the future. Give it a chance if you have the time!

Monday, March 4, 2019

One Page Player Handout

So going off of Matt Colville's lovely video on a campaign handout, I put together a one-page handout to give my future players. It's going to be for my spooky forest hexcrawl game and while I have a separate google document for all my house rules and extra player options I figured this would be a good way to get them thinking about their characters.

Without further ado, here is what I sent my players to get them thinking about characters.

This is the sort of theme I'm going for

Lords of the Bitterwood

It is a time of dark tidings in the borderlands.

South of the kingdom of Dell, the Bitterwood remains unclaimed by mortals and worse yet it seems to be expanding and swallowing villages on the edge.

Amelia, Lady Regent of Dell has put out a decree:

“To cleanse the forests to the south of the vicious wytches and beasts, should be the kingdom of Dell’s highest order. To motivate the local rabble and ratcatchers to action, I am implementing a new policy of land endowment. Those who succeed in cleansing the forest, mastering the land, and gaining the support of the locals will be given lordship over the Bitterwood Forest.”

This lofty goal rang true to your character, and you have joined in attempting this undertaking. It ran even more true to the leader of your relatively unknown pack of mercenaries. You are currently under the employ of The Grey Sparrows, run by the indomitable Mama Stehlen. She has rounded up your party as the first foray into the Bitterwood.

You might play a human. The kingdom of Dell is a mostly human one and the lands you will travel will be lands you will be familiar with from stories

You might play a dwarf. Uncommon in the kingdom of Dell. Most are sailors hailing from a place they call the Sunrise Archipeligo.

You might play an elf. Wandering people that have been displaced and splintered into factions since the fall of the Fair Spire 200 years ago.

You might play a half-elf. Uncommon to find. Most half-elves come from the dalliances of traveling elves.

You might play a small folk. Halflings and Gnomes are becoming more common as families move into the kingdom of Dell fleeing civil war in Dreglan.

You might play a tiefling. Born of a cursed heritage you are likely hired by (or lived in the orphanages of) the Church of St. Antigony.

You might play a firbolg. Mysterious forest giantkin that live in communes. Rare to see outside of their domain to the north.

You might play an ibisian. Birdfolk of two factions. Those who betrayed the Cruel Wind (and lost their wings) and those who sided with him (and watched him fall to Amelia’s blade).

You might play a shifter. Traces of beastman blood run in your veins. Men meet your eyes with distrust. The church denounces you, but who are you to care for the wills of gods.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Death, But Make it Spooky

I've been in the process of putting together a players guide for my upcoming spooky forest game and I put into writing some fun death rules. My players tend to get attached to their characters and I've provided ways to avoid that unfortunate situation where a character dies midway through a session leaving one player benched for a couple of hours. Without further ado here is Death in the Bitterwood. These rules will likely be used for a 5E game but here's hoping I can add more weird curses to it in the future.



The Bitterwood is often very dangerous. Death might become common while exploring and you should be prepared for that. Resurrection magic is unseen in these parts but other options exist. After death, you may make a new character with a level matching the Party Level - 1. They will level up to Party Level upon surviving one session. When you die in session you have 3 options.

Change in Perspective. 
Take control of an NPC ally until the session ends.
(Easiest option, keeps the player involved and allows a possible permanent replacement to emerge.

Walking Dead. If your body can be retrieved, taken to a safe location, and your allies can perform a DC10 medicine check, you can be brought back to the land of the living temporarily. For the remainder of the session, you can play your character, who has been brought back with half of its maximum HP. You can’t be healed by magic in this state. If you fall unconscious in this state you die permanently. At the end of the session, the grit and bandages keeping your character alive run out.
(This one gives the character a chance to finish off lingering business without undoing the death. It also rewards players for retrieving the bodies of their allies).

Petition the Things in the Dark. If your body cannot be retrieved, your spirit can hold on at a price. You return to life whole of body and unsound of mind. You harbor a general curse and a specific curse and are always aware of them. The general curse is as follows:

  • You cannot stray more than 6 miles from the Bitterwood or you will die (painfully)

The specific curse is as follows (roll 1d10)

  1. Hunger: Your body always needs more to eat yet you waste away. You require twice as many rations to avoid exhaustion. You have disadvantage on Constitution Checks and Saves.
  2. Wolf: You are always pursued by a large, white wolf. You can fight it off but it always comes back within a day. Eventually, it will win.
  3. Tether: Someone you are close to takes damage whenever you do. If you can’t decide, each day the forest decides for you. Those tethered see a ghostly string connecting them to you.
  4. Faceless: Your face melts away leaving only vacant eye holes and a slit mouth. You have disadvantage on all Charisma Checks and Saves.
  5. Gibbering: You are unable to speak any common language. You are at disadvantage to attack with your spells and creatures have advantage on saves against your spells.
  6. Master's Call: Your mind becomes weak to suggestion. You have disadvantage on all Wisdom Saves and Checks. Any attempts you make to navigate will always lead you deeper into the wood.
  7. We Are Many: Everyone looks like you now. Animals look like strange stretched out versions of you. Your allies look like you cosplaying your allies. Killing anyone that looks like you makes you go unconscious from the shock of it all.
  8. Tar: You feel like you are constantly covered in thick tar. Your movement is stiff and speaking feels like drowning. Movement speed is halved.
  9. Lies: Large crows follow you around. they insist on calling you “Maddened of the Woods” and spin tales of your awful debauchery to anyone that will listen. Like all good rumors, these spread like wildfire.
  10. Changeling: You are actually a changeling pretending to be you. Healing magic hurts you and animals fear you. Your actual “corpse” is somewhere in the woods. If you find it and dispose of it no one will know of your true nature.

Dying after you’ve been cursed turns you into a creature of the night. Your character becomes an NPC under the DM’s control.

(The curses are meant to be more evocative than balanced. They show off the spooky sorts of things that could happen to those lost in the woods. I intend to apply a few of these to NPCs the players find to make it feel like a more concrete part of the world.)

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Running OSR (for the first time)

Over the holiday season, I ran Tomb of the Serpent King not only once but twice with two different parties. I also used the opportunity to playtest my 5e character creation hack.

My players were used to 5e so I did some explaining on how the tomb isn't balanced for their level one characters, furthermore, I tried out gold as XP and gave them an NPC hireling and a donkey as possible secondary resources.

1st Party 

 This party of three made their way to the tomb with Gabe, a local youth who has agreed to stash and transport the party's treasure for a flat fee. Featured in the party was a Tabaxi Monk, a Goblin Bard, and a Human Barbarian. They were definitely more cavalier with encounters. They triggered quite a few traps but learned to start avoiding them once they entered the true tomb. There was a fight against the black pudding which they smartly kited around to avoid the lethal nature of its pseudopods. One player did some cool shenanigans with the ring that lets you remove your eye and see through it by combining it with mage hand. There was almost a TPK as the players attempted to face the Stone Cobra Guardian head on. Following their near-death experience, they took advantage of the bottomless pit and stealth to dispatch the guardian. The dungeon barnacles stumped them for a bit so they continued on towards the goblin pits. At this point, things went poorly. The goblins moved in numbers the party wasn't well prepared for, forcing the party to use oil and firebombs to keep them at bay while retreating. With a sizable haul of treasure retrieved the party voted to head back to town and sell their treasure for more efficient resources. At this point, we ended the session. (This was the only party that made use of the hireling and sent him out ahead to get some gold safely out of the dungeon.)

2nd Party

This party of three featured an Elf Barbarian, a Human Wizard, and an Elf Rogue. This party was much more cautious about traps and were only seriously hurt by the lightning trap. They briefly encountered the Basilisk but chose to take an alternative path to avoid such a dangerous creature. They briefly split the party and the hidden mummy claws almost killed the rogue. The black pudding was trapped in the tomb it came from due to the wizard setting off a minor cave in with some spells. Upon reaching the Stone Cobra Guardian they made a few exploratory attempts to test its strength and opted for the stealth+push off cliff combo right away. After defeating the Guardian and reaching the dungeon barnacles we called it for the night.  


Tomb of the Serpent King: The 1st group enjoyed the dungeon and being able to solve problems creatively. The stand out encounter for them was definitely the fight and later toppling of the Stone Cobra Guardian. They took a route that completely avoided the Basilisk so they never got to experience that section of the dungeon. The 2nd group enjoyed the camaraderie and seemed slightly disappointed that combat was almost always solved by wit rather than fisticuffs. I'm hoping to finish the dungeon sometime down the line and expose the players to the other weird things within.

5E Character Creation Hack: All the players seemed to appreciate the fast rolling nature of the 5E Templates. One of the players wanted to switch out weapons for their background and another wanted more choices than the given 6.

Gold as Experience: This one didn't elicit any specific reactions. It did encourage more exploration and planning on how to exit the dungeon safely. More importantly, it kept them away from the mindset of dungeons having a final boss.

Overall: I enjoyed myself immensely and might try a simpler system next time. 

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Quaggoth of the Underdark

The Quaggoth are the white ape-like humanoids of D&D's Underdark. They are classically depicted as surface elf hating slaves to the drow. In my Underdark, many were no longer slaves and served as mercenaries and sailors in the underground body of water called the Inkblood Sea. They were constructed with a partial basis on the Bugbears found in Volo's Guide to Monsters. Included in the race are two subraces matching the two quaggoth Monster Manual entries (one melee and one psionic).

Originally believed to have been bred by drow magicians as a slave race, the quaggoth escaped and filled their own niche in the Underdark. The origin of the quaggoths was unknown. Some sages claim that they were once a semi-civilized race that dominated much of the Underdark through conquest and ritual sacrifice, until the drow, duergar, and other races broke their power. Now they are common throughout the Inkblood Sea as sailors and mercenaries. Others in the Underdark them as tough and uncompromising.

Quaggoth traits. Your quaggoth character has certain characteristics in common with all other quaggoth.

Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 2

Age. Quaggoth reach adulthood at age 16 and live up to 80 years.

Alignment. Quaggoth endure a harsh existence that demands each of them to remain self-sufficient, even at the expense of their fellows. They tend to be chaotic evil.

Size. Quaggoth are between 6 and 8 feet tall and weigh between 250 and 350 pounds. Your size is Medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Darkvision. 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 color in Darkness, only shades of gray.

Long-Limbed. When you make a melee Attack on Your Turn, your reach for it is 5 feet greater than normal.

Powerful Build. You count as one size larger when determining your carrying capacity and the weight you can push, drag, or lift.

Quaggoth Resilience. You have advantage on saving throws against poison, and you have resistance against poison damage.

Languages. You can speak Undercommon and Quaggoth.



Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 1.
Sneaky. You are proficient in the Stealth skill.
Surprise Attack. If you Surprise a creature and hit it with an Attack on your first turn in Combat, the Attack deals an extra 2d6 damage to it. You can use this trait only once per Combat.


Ability Score Increase. Your Wisdom score increases by 1.
Thonot Fearsense. You are proficient in the Insight skill.
Thonot Psionics. You know the Mage Hand cantrip. When you reach 3rd level, you can cast the Featherfall spell on yourself once with this trait. When you reach 5th level, you can cast the Mirror Image spell on yourself once with this trait. You don’t need material components for either spell. You must finish a long rest to cast them on yourself once again with this trait. Wisdom is your spellcasting ability for these spells.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Underdark Encounters: The Umber Hills

For the past year I ran a D&D 5e game set in the Underdark, or at least my version of it that featured elements from Hot Spring Island sprinkled in. The players all played Underdark races and never once saw the sun (the one they saw when transported to Hot Spring Island doesn't really count) My players and I finished that campaign recently so I am free to put my encounter tables up without fear of spoiling my players. These encounters were meant to provide a challenge for a high-level 5E party but the Umber Hills holds this level of danger most of the time.

Area Summary

The Umber Hills represent a section of the Underdark with glowing hills. It divides a dwarven kingdom (Argentus) from a tiefling enclave (Formosa) and is isolated from the rest of the caverns by underground rivers. Visibility is understandably much better here but the glowing hills seem to shift and change the creatures living within. The only humanoids making their home in the area are a group of deep gnome monks (The Pinnacle Order) who pledge themselves to the dead goddess of balance. 


Umber Hills Event Table

roll 1d10
  1. Bright Lichen, an area where pressure generates light, blinding light. Not moving creates patches of light that burn for 2d6 radiant damage
  2. Heart Root, a massive pulsing red root that will flood areas with red sticky nectar that smells of blood (it confers difficult terrain and grabs and sticks at flying things as per the Earthbind spell (DC15 Str Save)
  3. Ancient carvings on the hills generate areas of magical darkness, of course, things are hiding inside.
  4. Holes shaped like upright humanoids dot the hillside, you get the sinking feeling one of them belongs to you. (Save 15 Wis Save or start looking for yours, if you roll 10 or lower you start to climb inside).
  5. A ruined tower looms ahead, a fire burns a bright green inside, you hear whispers (75% chance of summoning a glabrezu)
  6. A pall cold fills the hills, treat as extreme cold from the dmg (DC10 con save every hour or gain exhaustion)
  7. A buried titan's eye flutters open in waking sleep, it fires beams that slows the movement of whatever moves the most.
  8. A large nest is set up amongst the hills, it belongs to something big and there's baby-like mewling coming from it.
  9. A sunken temple overgrown with plants comes into view. Singing can be heard from within.
  10. The way is clear and the path is peaceful...

B) Creature
roll 1d10
  1. Sundew-men, monstrous plants that grow in a humanoid shape. They smell sweet and eat meat. (4d8)
  2. 4 cyclops are engaged in a long distance staring contest
  3. Something ancient appears, it has 4 heads, 7 wings and seeks to cleanse the hills of sinful life.
  4. A troop of tielfing knights (3d4)
  5. A group of Pinnacle Order Initiates (2d4) 
  6. A chariot pulled by nightmares is chilling on the side of the road, I'm sure it doesn't belong to anyone. (Contains a death knight within that will possess would be thieves)
  7.  A creepy gnome salesman is waiting at a crossroads, he sells magical wheels
  8. A literature spider (it consumes written language) has made its nest nearby
  9. A previous enemy of the party reappears dramatically!!
  10. Purple Worm x2 Electric Boogaloo