Archive for category House Rules

On Female Dwarves

So it’s been a little while since I last wrote anything hasn’t it? Mostly that’s because nothing particularly new has been going on around here. The two campaigns that I was running found themselves on temporary hiatus while the craziness of summer wrapped everyone up. Luckily things are winding down and should be back to normal. I the meantime however, hopefully you’re all enjoying the new play test packet from WotC. I’m certainly excited about the possibilities that the fighter combat superiority dice bring to the table, and the new magic classes look interesting so far.

So about that post title… A few years back, I came across a blog post, or perhaps a forum post that I can no longer find. I would love to finding again and link to and credit the original author, but so far my google-fu has been weak. The post came to mind for me the other day while thinking about various fantasy race tropes and stereotypes and it was a brilliant and imaginative way to handle the “female dwarves with beards” bit that shows up every now and then. What follows is my hazy recollection of that post, if for no other reason than to preserve the idea. If anyone can recall the original author, please let me know.

Many a traveler through the wilds and the world will have noted that dwarves women are a rare sight. Indeed, aside from children, no one is really ever sure if they’ve seen one, leading most people to assume that they must have, and therefore that dwarves women must have beards, which is why you never seem to be able to tell them apart from the men. The truth my friends, is even stranger still. You see, it is well known that the dwarves have a love of mining, and a love of gold and shiny rocks. It is equally well known that they are master craftsmen when it comes to stone, building grand halls and caverns the likes of which even the giants would feel small inside. Perhaps even more well known is the ill temper of the average adventuring dwarf, but why should this be so? What drive possesses dwarves to produce monumental caverns? What need does a dwarf have for a cavern a hundred dwarves tall? Similarly, why the lust for gold and gems? Surely there are enough dwarves miners that others could set themselves to another task? And really, why are so many adventuring dwarves so grumpy? My friends, I tell you it is all for their women. To understand, you must first understand a bit about dwarven love. Dwarven children are often kept away from the outside world, kept safe in dwarven cities under the mountains until one day, the males begin to set off on their adventures, or set off for a life in the mines. But what of the girls? During their younger years, when a male and female dwarf fall in love, they will be married in a grand ceremony, to commemorate the marriage, and the male’s new eternal purpose, for you see, every male quests for his bride. To find her the treasures she adores, the room she needs to grow and blossom into her beautiful self. And what might that beautiful self be? Ask yourself my friend, what other creature do you know that seeks large caverns underground and massive amounts of gold and gems? Yes my friend, the great secret of the dwarves is that as they age, their females slowly change from the figure that we recognize as dwarf, to an altogether more awesome sight, that of a dragon. Her husband spends his life accumulating treasure for her to make her nest upon, to live comfortably. I assure you friend I am not joking, for this explains so much of the world. It explains the ongoing quest of every dwarf to find more treasure and gems. It explains the great halls and caverns, and it explains how so often when an adventurer encounters a dragon, they are at the bottom of some great dungeon, whose halls the creature could not have fit through, and with a pile of treasure that would have taken a dwarf a lifetime to move.


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Fixing The Fighter

A comment over at Micah’s place has me thinking about the fighter and how to make the fighter “better”. I’m not sure there’s an adequate way to give the fighter a cool list of moves without degenerating into a 4e “every class feels the same” mess, but a variant mentioned in that comment got me thinking.

What if instead of daily spells, fighters got daily battle control slots. Recognizing that the one thing a fighter should be absolutely bar none the best at is fighting, what if we gave the fighter a limited ability to constantly tip the battle in his favor. Mechanically the way this would play out is a fighter has a limited number of battle control slots per day, like a wizard or cleric has spells per day. But unlike a wizard who has to memorize his spells to create supernatural effects, the fighter simply gets to spend his control slots where he needs them most, at the time he needs them. Once per control slot, the fighter can replace a die roll for any physical effort, whether it’s a to hit roll, a damage roll, a save, a dodge whatever, with a declared number from that die. So for example, it’s a battle against the BBEG, and things are looking grim for the party, and the fighter really needs this next attack to hit. Rather than roll his d20 and hope he gets that 15 or better, the fighter instead burns a control slot, declaring a 19, and thus ensuring the hit. My only limit to this would be that declared 20’s would not be critical hits. They can still be auto-hits, but the fighter should have to roll damage. The reason I say this is to prevent the use of this ability to declare both a hit and max damage in a single slot burn. That doesn’t prevent the fighter from burning another slot to ensure max damage though.

Additionally, let’s give the fighter (exclusively) the house rule that I stole from Zack a while back, the fighter can choose to expand his critical range up to a value equal to half his level round up. In exchange, his critical mis range is increased by the same amount. So a level 1 fighter can choose to attack with a crit range of 19-20 and a fail range of 1-2, while the 4th level fighter can attack with a ranger of 18-20 and 1-3.

What do you think? Will this help fix the fighter?

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On Awesome Things

So, if you haven’t read Zak’s blog, you should, the guy has a lot of fantastic ideas. So fantastic that apparently WOTC decided to hire him to help with D&D Next, which is awesome. He wrote some posts a while back about how you could combine multiple D&D rule sets together that would make D&D Next work great. If the folks over an WOTC take his advice to heart, this could work out really well.

In addition he recently wrote an awesome post on a new way to handle called shots and other fancy attacks. Rather than simply taking negatives to hit, allow players to choose their critical range for the shot, and the shot succeeds within that range. The trade off is that for every increase in the critical range, the fumble range is also increased. So if you want your called shot to succeed on a 15 – 20, it will also fail on a 1-5. It is awesome, and I’m stealing it, with some modifications. The attack must still normally hit, so if you need a 15 to hit anyway, even if you extend your range to 13-20, you won’t succeed on a 13, though you won’t fumble either. Also you can only increase your range by half your level, round up.

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Monster of the Day: Corpse Crow

Inspired by a creature in InuYasha, the corpse crow would probably make a great addition to your next undead / horror encounter.

Corpse Crow

Hit Dice: 1
Armor Class: 8 [11]
Attacks: Bite (1d6), Burrow (1d4)
Saving Throw: 17
Special: Possession (see below), Immunities
Move: 4/18 (flying)
Alignment: Chaos
Challenge Level/XP: 5/240

Though not very tough, these creatures of nightmares are deadly foes and not to be taken lightly. Corpse crows survive by feasting on the corpses of their victims. A hit from a crow requires a saving throw to avoid having the crow burrow into the victim’s chest, consuming the heart. It will take a corpse crow 1 round per level or HD of the victim to burrow to the heart, and the burrowing can only be stopped by killing the crow. If the crow completes its painful advance or kills its victim before completion, the corpse crow gains possession and control over the victim’s body at half HP and -2 to attacks. If the body a corpse crow inhabits is destroyed, the crow will escape the body and seek a new victim.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License except where included material is licensed under the OGL in which case that material remains licensed under the OGL.

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Weekend Quickie: Repeating Crossbow

An interesting invention from ancient china, the repeating crossbow was designed to allow high rates of fire at the expense of accuracy. Mostly used as a defensive weapon or from under the cover of shields, a team of repeating crossbowmen could rain down nearly 4 times the number of bolts at their enemies as compared to a standard crossbow. Unfortunately the repeating crossbow had little penetrating power, and it’s design and firing position made it less accurate. For this reason the bolts were often tipped with poison, to maximize the lethality of the weapon. Sounds like the perfect addition to any RPG’s arsenal, so here it is in Swords and Wizardry stats:

Crossbow, Repeating :
Damage: See Bolts, Poison
Rate of Fire: 4
Range: 50ft
Weight: 5#
Cost: 10gp
Bolts, Poison (20) :
Damage: 1d3 + Poison (+4 save)
Rate of File: By Weapon
Range: By Weapon
Weight: 1#
Cost: 4gp

Design Thoughts:

The repeating crossbow needs a shorter range than the standard crossbow, but equally something longer than a sling I think, so 50′ puts it at the same range as a short bow. At 4d3 damage per round (assuming the player chooses to fire all 4 bolts) the average damage should be 8. This is just slightly higher than the expected 7 from a short or long bow, which to my mind is a good representation of the lower fire power but higher rate of fire effect. The slightly cheaper cost reflects that this was apparently a common weapon among peasants to defend their homes. On the other hand, the more expensive bolt costs reflects the added costs of obtaining a poisoned tipped bolt.

The poison gives a +4 to save, mostly because giving 4 chances per round to poison a target seems to me like a huge advantage to the player. The effects of the poison are left to the game master, but my thought is 1/2 ongoing damage per round per bolt. This makes the poison relatively ineffective with just a single bolt, but can add up if the player (or monster) can land multiple hits to the same target. An alternative might be a higher ongoing damage, but no multiplier for multiple hits or simply declaring that the poison will cause death in 2d6 rounds.

Other alternatives a game master might wish to include is a negative penalty to hit with the repeating crossbow to reflect its inaccuracy.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License except where included material is licensed under the OGL in which case that material remains licensed under the OGL.

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Direct Magic

Over at Mythmere’s Blog, Matt appears to have discovered a mystery of an old, perhaps forgotten, perhaps typo-ed magic spell called “Direct Magic”. His research leads him to believe it was a typo for Detect Magic which was edited out, but the heading slipped past the editors. Even so, I like the idea, so it got the hamster running, and I think I’ve come up with a plausible Direct Magic spell. Matt notes that it was a 1st level spell with a 60 ft range and a 20 minute duration. So let’s start with the more powerful “Dispel Magic” as a template. From the S&W book:

Dispel Magic

Spell Level: Magic-User, 3rd Level Range: 120 feet Duration: 10 minutes against an item

Dispel Magic, although not powerful enough to permanently disenchant a magic item (nullifies for 10 minutes), can be used to completely dispel most other spells and enchantments.

The chance of successfully dispelling magic is a percentage based on the ratio of the level of the dispelling caster over the level of original caster (or HD of the monster). Thus, a 6th-level Magic-User attempting to dispel a charm cast by a 12th-level Magic-User has a 50% chance of success (6/12 = .50, or 50%). If the 12th-level Magic-User was dispelling the 6th-level Magic-User’s charm, success would be certain (12/6 = 2.00, or 200%).

So if we think of “Direct Magic” as a weaker version of “Dispel Magic” we end up with something like this:

Direct Magic

Spell Level: Magic-User, 1st Level Range: 60 feet Duration: 20 minutes against an item / permanent spell effect

Direct Magic is not powerful enough to dispel a magic effect entirely, but it can redirect it to another valid target if the original caster or item/effect and new target are within range of the directing caster. A redirected spell still operates as normal, just against the new target. If an item or permanent spell is redirected to another item or target, that redirection lasts only 20 minutes at which point the magic returns to its original item.

The chance of successfully directing magic is a percentage based on the ratio of the level of the directing caster over the level of original caster (or HD of the monster). Thus, a 6th-level Magic-User attempting to direct a charm cast by a 12th-level Magic-User has a 50% chance of success (6/12 = .50, or 50%). If the 12th-level Magic-User was directing the 6th-level Magic-User’s charm, success would be certain (12/6 = 2.00, or 200%).

A spell like this can act as something of a weaker counter spell where instead of nullifying the spell completely, the magic user simply turns it aside. A useful utility spell for sneaking past some magical warding without dispelling it (you might want to get through, but you’d rather that goblin hoard outside not). What do you think?

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